News Column

Island traffic congestion drives AMICCO performances out

July 23, 2014

By Amaris Castillo, The Bradenton Herald

July 23--ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Traffic on the island has become too much for the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, which is why the group decided to move half of its 2014-2015 schedule off the island.

The arts organization will stage two shows -- "Afternoon with Amadeus" and "An Island Adventure with Gilbert & Sullivan" -- at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road, Bradenton, at 2 p.m.Feb. 22 and March 22, respectively.

The schedule tweaks are on a trial basis for AMICCO, which pays churches to use space for rehearsals and performances.

"We're going to see how it works out," said AMICCO Executive Director Jeanie Pickwick. "We've heard from patrons and, of course, musicians that during the height of the season they're fighting the beach traffic to get onto the island -- and after the performance, they're fighting the beach traffic again."

Pickwick, who lives in Bradenton and used to own property on the island, said she's come across the traffic congestion herself. The change wasn't an easy decision, but Pickwick said she and others with AMICCO felt it is the best thing.

"We just wanted to try to be true to our patrons and really spread ourselves a little farther out in the county," Pickwick said, adding that

AMICCO is still an Anna Maria Island organization. "The island is in our hearts and we'll never leave. ... We just want to make it a little easier to get to our performances."

Nancy Ambrose, an AMICCO Advisory Council member, said she is thrilled about the schedule change.

"I think it's very exciting. I think it will help us broaden our base because there are some people who don't want to come to the island on a Sunday afternoon," she said. "I think it will be a really great boost for us."

Ambrose, a former AMICCO Board member, said pushing two shows off island was not something they really wanted to do.

"We've had so many people telling us how many problems they have getting on the island," Ambrose said. "We tell our musicians to get there early but, if traffic is backed to 43rd Street West, it can take a really long time to get out there."

Ambrose said she thinks the changes will be good for all parties.

Deputy Gary Sellitto with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Anna Maria Unit said AMICCO's decision to stage two shows off island will make it easier for some patrons to attend.

"Traffic would be lighter in town," he said over the phone Tuesday afternoon.

The deputy has worked the island since 1991 and says traffic is a lot busier now than years ago.

"That's what happens when you get increased tourism -- you get increased traffic," Sellitto said.

In the 1990s, there was a tourist season in Anna Maria Island but now, Sellitto said, the island is busy all year.

After hearing about AMICCO's schedule change from a fellow island resident, Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen emailed Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, asking him to share the news with fellow county commissioners.

"I was horrified. This is the first of our (island) institutions to be lost," Peelen said. "From my perspective, the traffic at this level is going to cause more and more losses."

Peelen, who has lived on the island since 2006, said traffic congestion is so bad residents can't even get around the whole island.

"The predictable end is that this will become Disney World," she said. "It's very depressing."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.


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Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)

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