Lights On! Sanibel

The official holiday season on Sanibel Island commences with the widely popular and celebratory “Luminary Festival of the Islands”. It is always hard to find any event on the islands that competes with our fantastic, sandy and shell-lined beaches and the tranquil lifestyle that beach-goers love, but for one night only, Periwinkle Way prevails!

For 3 hours and 3 miles only, our “no street light” community is ablaze with tiny lanterns or luminarias set along each side of the street lighting the way for trail walkers and bicycle riders who make stops along the way to make merry with old friends, new acquaintances, dressed up celebrity Santa Clauses, shopkeepers and restauranteurs.

With only an hour and a half to make my procession before starting my volunteer stint as a trolley stop cop at the Hungry Heron restaurant (ample samples of key lime pie available for all), I started my trek from “Bank of the Islands”, one of the most well lit, beautifully landscaped businesses on Sanibel and my favorite place to park!

With an appetite spared all day, I sprinted to “Sanibel Island Book Shop”, one of my memorable food stops from last year. It has a charming feel with great books and gifts and friendly service from Holly and mom, Deb Smith. A quick sip of wine, homemade chips and guacamole and I’m off across the street to Sanibel Home Furnishings where I see a crowd gathering at each of their three entrances. I sniff out the homemade edibles, not wanting to waste any time at Costco cuisine stops. This first class “islandy” furniture store is a treat any time of year—colorful lime green chairs with coral-orange accent trimmings –entices you through their showrooms. But back to the food—hand mixed spinach dip with crunchy, raw orange and green vegetables. Globs and globs of this chunky dip felt so fine. Of course, biscotti, wine and soft drinks also soothed.

But the show stopper for the most scrumptious buffet and Sanibel hospitality was an upset! Congratulations and thank you to Stroemer and Co., a Sanibel CPA and consulting firm. John and fellow staffers set up a tail gate with edible fare catered from Biddles Restaurant and Piano Bar, Ft. Myers. This was the stop worth waiting in line for! Huge bowls of 5” fresh shrimp and horseradish cocktail sauce; platters of eggplant bruschetta, portobello flatbread and sashimi tuna; and homemade nutty, dark chocolate chip, butter flavored hand sized cookies. The scent of strong flavors must have aroused all of Andy’s good friends who had agreed to meet later but rather convened at this site prematurely.

With a satisfied full stomach, I led the way to Jerry’s Food Market to have my picture taken with Santa. Free photos with Santa are popular with me because my friends in Indiana are so jealous to see me tanned and in a tee shirt sitting in Santa’s lap with white snow and palm trees in the frame. Jerry’s graciously welcomes island grocery shoppers with its annual, elaborate display of oversized snowmen, Santas, elves and reindeer. A recent recipient of one of the top thirty-two grocery stores across the country, they also deliver groceries for the guests at Ocean’s Reach!

One more stop only before my volunteer assignment. I lead the growing pack to the Sanibel Community Church. Along with several musical groups and choirs caroling: a compound electrifying the night with multi color lights on palms, church tops and native plantings: a live nativity; petting zoo; homemade craft bazaar; snacks and refreshments; this year’s church event was topped off with a new “Walk through Old Bethlehem”. A twenty minute line had already formed and only twelve at a time could be quickly oriented and then dramatically interact with live, costumed biblical characters within historically accurate surroundings from the Bible’s “Night Before Christmas”. It was a wonderful presentation that took all of our breaths away and was the perfect way to end my evening’s procession.

Stay tuned for part two of my luminary trail experience. Before I sign off, let me thank the event planner, Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, for an amazing evening that is well worth spending a few extra days on Sanibel for. And just imagine waking up the next morning on those fabulous, to-die-for Sanibel beaches.

Dru Anne Doyle   see the pictures here…