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A Sketch of the Islands

By Staff | Dec 30, 2011

(Photo by Carol Orr Hartman)

Sanibel and Captiva islands offer serene beauty, unspoiled beaches, abundant nature and loads of activities all of which bring thousands of visitors to this paradise location each year.

To kiss 2011 goodbye, islanders can celebrate at The Sanibel Recreation Center with more than $8,000 in prizes and 35 games. The schedule starts at 8 p.m. with food and strolling magician Keith Raygor, who is resident magician and entertainer at the Watermark Grille in Naples; ventriloquist Brenda Stelzer, who has appeared on several network television shows and international documentaries highlighting the art; and juggler Jeff Lovett, who is the great-nephew of vaudevillian juggler Al Lovett and the son of circus clown Jack Lovett.

During this 3rd annual New Year’s Eve bash, there will also be Bingo, teen play, “Minute to Win It,” dancing with DJ Chad G., a 50/50 raffle and balloon drop with surprises at midnight. This celebration is a family-friendly, alcohol free event sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Foundation, City of Sanibel, local businesses, families and individuals. This year’s proceeds will help assist youth of financially eligible families to attend the after-school program, fun days, and holiday and summer camps.

But it doesn’t take the end of a year for islanders and visitors to find a good time. Many come from around the world to do the “Sanibel Stoop.” They parade along the miles of beaches doubled over in a stance that has been dubbed the Sanibel Stoop in search of seashells. The islands rank top in the world for shelling because of geography. The east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end acts like a shovel scooping up shells the Gulf imports from the southern seas.

The best shelling beaches are along the Gulf-side that runs from Lighthouse Beach to North Captiva. Shelling is best at low tide or after Gulf storms. It is recommended to bring a bucket for your shells and wear shoes as you shuffle to expose partially hidden mollusks. You can also join The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum volunteers for special beach walks held monthly. A knowledgeable volunteer helps participants find and learn about mollusks. For more information on the next museum beach walk, see page ** in this edition of the Islander.

(Photo by Carol Orr Hartman)

The islands cater to art lovers with many wonderful art galleries that host fantastic exhibits during the islands’ season, which brings thousands of visitors each year. Along Tarpon Bay Road at Library Way, there are two galleries Hirdie Girdie and Tower Gallery that offer works by local artists.

“It’s been a good year for artists,” noted artist Joan Reynolds who is a new member of Hirdie Girdie. “More people are buying art and we have a lot of future plans (at the galleries.)”

On Captiva, 2 Islands Gallery offers prints by renowned artist Ikki Matsumoto whose long resume includes rescuing an old beach house he transformed into a show place for his and others’ work that currently houses Tower Gallery.

Within the Village Shops on Periwinkle Way, sits Watson MacRae gallery. Hosting several interesting exhibits each year, it brings a “sanctuary of art” to the island. To find a list of art galleries on Sanibel and Captiva visit the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce’s website at www.sanibel-captiva.org.

In addition to art exhibits in the Phillips Gallery, Big Arts hosts various shows at its Schein Performance Hall and Herb Strauss Theater. Since 1979, Big Arts has continued to provide cultural enrichment island residents and visitors. It began when a group of artists dreamed of a cultural center on the island. Today, Big Arts members and participants enjoy a wide spectrum of performing and visual arts events, and the community participates in more than 200 educational classes and workshops each year.

Visit bigarts.org or see pages *** to find additional information on upcoming shows, exhibits and lectures at Big Arts, known as “a home for all the arts.”

March 2012 will mark the 75th year of the Shell Club’s Sanibel Shell Fair and Show. This two-day event is comprised of an outdoor retail fair that helps raise money and indoor activities. In 2011, the money raised benefited the Community House and the Shell Club.

“We give it all way,” said Shell Club president Anne Joffe about where the money goes. “We funded the new record shells exhibit at the museum, but we’re the only club in the world that, for 25 years, has fully funded a student every year at the University of South Florida in Tampa.”

Joffe also said the shell fair is quite an experience and people from all over the world return every year to enjoy it. Other long-standing events include the ABC Sale hosted by the Captiva Civic Association. Though it started as a basic rummage and bake sale, it has evolved into one of the islands’ most highly anticipated seasonal events.

“Not only is this the 75th year for the CCA, it’s the 45th for the ABC Sale, which is a major milestone for this type of event,” said Sharon Brace of the CCA in March. “People enjoy the ABC Sale they get to have a nice social evening with their friends and it’s a very fun way to show your support the Captiva Civic Association.”

For the past three years, the Bailey’s Center Merchants have hosted an IrishFest — a free community event that features live entertainment, games, and activities and, of course, green beer.

“The Bailey’s Center has been at the heart of the Sanibel community for a century, and events like the IrishFest say thank you to the community that supports us,” said Bailey’s General Store Manager Richard Johnson.

Also in March is the Sanibel-Captiva Lion’s Club annual Arts and Crafts Fair. Celebrating its 28th year in 2011, the two-day event brought in more than 125 artisans from across the nation to Sanibel Island.

“The Lions Arts and Crafts Fair is, of course, our largest fundraiser of the year, and all the charitable activities of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions depend on the success of the fair,” said 2011 Arts and Crafts Fair Chairman Bill Sadd.

While there are many unforgettable events held annually, one in particular is close to island residents’ hearts Islands Night. For the past 18 years this event at Hammond Stadium, started by the beloved Sam Bailey, has brought islanders and island charities together for a night of baseball and fun.

For the first time since its inception, the event went on without its founder this year. Sam Bailey has been called a true legend on Sanibel Island and when he passed away in 2010, Sam left a few traditions for his community.

“Make it a real special night,” Sam once said about Islands Night.

Make 2012 special by visiting the paradise islands of Sanibel and Captiva where there is an abundance of relaxation and fun all wrapped island style.