Shell Shocked: What Sanibel does during the summerSmile, you’re on television
This is the time of year that the Sanibel-Captiva winter irregulars are up North. We’re in the middle of another summer and the weather throughout the rest of the country begins to come close to what our beloved islands offer all year long.
Most of the winter irregulars maintain their Sanibel residences from October through May. Most have driven down in their own cars so that they wouldn’t have to rent a car for the seven months in Sanibel. So most have sorted out their North-South wardrobes, shut off their water, closed the hurricane shutters, bid a fond farewell to the sea shells, climbed in their cars and headed to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada and other winter cold spots.
Around the middle of the summer, things seem different around the islands. The irregulars are gone, the stampede of reveling vacationers is over and the year-round residents and businesses are left with each other.
The restaurants which have played to standing room only crowds in March now have a few empty tables (although none would ever admit it). The real estate brokers, pausing only to deposit their ample brokers’ fees in March, wonder when the phone will ring next.
It’s the summer doldrums, or as the true year-round Sanibel resident would put it “now it’s our time.” So for the next few months, all the island businesses take a collective deep breath and wave goodbye to the irregulars and revelers until the fall.
But to those who remain behind, these summer months are the most exciting of all. That’s when they come out of their shells (no pun intended) and really become themselves. In fact, they keep the true excitement of summer in Sanibel to themselves because their worst fear is that the irregulars and the revelers will change their plans and stay on.
But what exactly goes on in Sanibel and Captiva during the summer months? What do the regulars do? Well, to get the answers to these questions I had to bribe a lot of folks. But now it can be told.
The most exciting celebration in June is when the annual painting of the white line down the middle of Sanibel-Captiva Road is completed. A gala beach party takes place with all the regulars on hand to raise their glasses in a mass toast to the new white line. Several residents are rumored to paint their bodies with left over paint and perform native Sanibel highway dances.
In July comes the spirited causeway coin counting extravaganza. The eldest sons of all Sanibel families are given the honor to count all the coins collected during tourist months and carry them in fish nets to the steps of City Hall. As the coins are sorted and deposited in the huge underground vaults under Sanibel City Hall, the eldest sons are awarded free lifetime memberships in the Sanibel library.
August is shell planting season on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. This is when all rare sea shells bought by Sanibel residents from mail order catalogues are planted at various secret spots along the beaches. They remove the sales labels as best they can so that when the irregulars and revelers gather again in the fall to begin their search for rare shells, they will find them.
September, the final month of privacy for the regulars, is tourist season preparedness month. This is the month that the alligators are borrowed from the Everglades, the wild life consigned from the Bronx Zoo for the season, the hurricanes manufactured by George Lucas Special Effects Laboratories, and the dolphins placed in the waters by Walt Disney Studios.
Come October, the irregulars return in their cars and start the year’s coin collection process all over again at the causeway. Not a bad life.
Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.