Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Beginning of the Holiday Season on Sanibel - Luminary!

Sanibel and Captiva Islands will sparkle with community spirit as the 24th annual Luminary Festival takes place on December 5th and 6th. As you travel the luminary trail you can stop at the many different retail plazas to browse the shops and restaurants, admire the beautiful Christmas decorations and enjoy a fun-filled evening with family and friends.
A tree lighting ceremony, live nativity scene, music and photos with Santa are also part of this proud island tradition. You can park at any of the plazas that have a trolley stop and enjoy complimentary trolley rides along the trail. You’ll conserve a little gas too, which is always a good thing! Sanibel’s Luminary is Friday, December 5th and Captiva’s is on Saturday the 6th.
We invite everyone to visit us and the other proprietors at the Olde Sanibel Shoppes (also known as the Over Easy Plaza) located at 630 Tarpon Bay Rd. In addition to offering complimentary snacks and beverages the center is also a community drop-off site for donations to the Harry Chapin Food Bank, which serves the entire Southwest Florida area.
Monetary contributions and donations of unopened, non-perishable food are accepted everywhere you see the “Feeding Families” poster. You can ring in the holidays and help those less fortunate at the same time; something that’s sure to fill your heart with joy. We hope to see you on Sanibel and Captiva next weekend!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Rebirth of The Twilight Cafe

It was a sad day when I found out that one of my favorite Sanibel restaurants, Twilight Cafe, was closing. Over the years I had fallen
in love with the menu, the quaint atmosphere and their world famous marinated broccoli. In fact, it was our first choice for Sanibel Holiday staff dinners because all the employees loved it as much as I did!
For those of you who haven't heard I am pleased to announce that the Twilight Cafe is back and better than ever! They are in a new location on West Gulf Drive where the Riviera once was. They have more tables and an updated look but the food is still fabulous. On my highly anticipated first evening back I enjoyed the seared sesame crusted tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes in a warm coconut and sesame reduction which I followed with a warm chocolate cobbler for dessert. The service was impeccable, the food was wonderful and the desire to make a reservation for my next visit was strong! Although I was happy with my choice it would be hard to claim it as a "favorite" just yet because every night Chef Parks offers specials which incorporate the newest and most interesting products on the market. Stop by soon to find your favorite and don't be surprised if it changes with each visit! We promise you won't be disappointed!
Due to Twilight Cafe's popularity it is highly recommended that you call ahead for reservations otherwise you might miss out on one of Sanibel's best restaurants!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Season at Sanibel Island's Schoolhouse Theater

As Sanibel’s seasonal residents and guests begin to arrive back on the island, the Schoolhouse Theater’s 2008-2009 opened to rave reviews on October 16th with “We Love a Piano”, featuring the music of Irving Berlin. This season promises to delight theater-goers with a good dose of comedy, a bit of drama and great musical revues. Under the direction of theater veteran Victor Legarreta, The Schoolhouse Theater delivers performances that will have you saying “Bravo!” every time. Located at 2200 Periwinkle Way across from the Sanibel Community Center, the theater itself seats 160 and there isn’t a bad seat in the house, literally. Tickets are just $30 for adults and $20 for children age 16 and under; group tickets are also available for parties of 11 or more. The next show, “Play On”, opens November 13th and runs through December 6th. To get the scoop on all the upcoming shows, visit the theater’s website.

We are fortunate to have great cultural venues like The Schoolhouse Theater right here on Sanibel Island. With all the island has to offer, we can’t think of a single reason to leave once you’ve crossed the causeway and settled in to your piece of paradise!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sanibel's Agricultural Past & the Arrival of the Seasonal Vacationer

Stark Sanford Carraway and Belton C. Johnson at
work in a tomato field on Sanibel, January 1912. *

Imagine driving along Sanibel-Captiva Road or East Gulf Drive and seeing acre upon acre of citrus groves and fields of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, watermelons and radishes. I would find it rather interesting, wouldn't you? You wouldn’t know it by driving around the island today, but Sanibel was a thriving farm community in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The fertile soil and lure of living on an island “paradise” was quite appealing to many people; many of the island’s pioneer families were farmers and became quite successful in their endeavors. Homes were built from lumber milled from native trees and even from palmetto fronds; several of these historic structures are still standing today at their original locations.

One of Sanibel’s most notable families, the Bailey’s, arrived in the mid-1890s. Harry, Frank and Ernest Bailey began farming soon after they settled on the island with their mother. They started the Sanibel Packing House in 1899 where they packed and loaded island produce onto steamboats bound for other parts of the country and points beyond. The packing house became Bailey’s General Store and it is still in operation today, located at the corner of Periwinkle Way and Tarpon Bay Road. You are likely to meet native sons Sam and Francis Bailey at some point when visiting the island; they are true gems full of many tales from Sanibel’s past.

As people were settling on Sanibel to farm, other entrepreneurial spirits saw the island as a mecca for travelers who longed to escape the harsh winters of the Northeast. Several lodging establishments were built to cater to visitors who arrived by ferry to enjoy the warm temperatures and clear blue Gulf waters.

The Matthews, now the Island Inn, opened in 1895 and is the oldest continually operating hotel on the island, having celebrated their centennial in 1995. Other early lodging establishments include the Tarpon House, Palm Lodge, Reed’s Landing and The Sisters, which is known today as Casa Ybel Resort.

The hurricane of 1926 flooded the island with tons of saltwater, putting an end to the agriculture industry. Farmers turned to other professions including innkeeping, commercial fishing, building trades and charter boat services as they began a new era of their lives on Sanibel.

As the popularity of wintering on Sanibel grew, condominiums were built for "snowbirds" and vacation rental agencies like Sanibel Holiday were born, providing travelers an "all-inclusive" way to find the perfect accommodation to meet their needs.

*Photo courtesy of the book Images of America: Sanibel Island by Yvonne Hill and Marguerite Jordan, copyright 2008.