Sanibel Island: A Beautiful Jewel

commercial news logoDON RICHTER of Danville, Illinois, writes in praise of Sanibel Island in his local newspaper, The Commercial-News.

His observations of Sanibel’s charms match those of almost everyone who visits here. We hear the comments regularly from guests at Sanibel’s West Wind Inn beach resort. They regard West Wind Inn as the “jewel” in the jewel.

Don’s story starts in a local shopping plaza. He doesn’t say which one and we have several. Periwinkle Place, the largest and most popular among shoppers, is the likely venue.

Don describes a conversation with another male. Both are consigned to a waiting bench while their ladies finish up their searches for island treasure.

After the customary comments on seasonal traffic on Periwinkle Way, he swings into a list of what makes Sanibel special. One of those things is the politeness of drivers on Sanibel, who tend to be willing to wait and leave an opening for cars crossing or entering traffic.

He then comments on our “elaborate system of bicycle trails” that make it possible to avoid the daily traffic jams.

Eventually, he moves on to the island’s preoccupation with nature, from its controls of outdoor lighting, “in deference to the sea turtles that nest there” , to acres and acres of land devoted to habitat for wildlife. The latter include renowned J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a resource that West Wind Inn proudly claims to have as its close neighbor.

Then there is the beach that many consider Sanibel’s ultimate attraction, known throughout the world for its abundant seashells.

Strangely, or not so strangely for the male of our species, Don stops short of drilling further into another strong attraction for visitors: the shopping, with which he opened his article. By tradition and City regulations controlling the growth “chains”, Sanibel shops present a fascinating array of merchandise a shopper would have a hard time finding in a mall at home.

These are the pleasures and treasures that await you as you are drawn to this jewel on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast.

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Sanibel’s beloved Herb Strauss Theater


If the world was formed by a “big bang”, it must have been a hilarious start. That’s what the creators of “The Big Bang”, a musical at the BIG Arts Herb Strauss Theater would leave you thinking. The show, written and composed by Boyd Graham and Jed Feuer, opens on April 11 and plays through May 3, 2014. It was originally performed by the creators Off Broadway in New York City. Join a pair of theatrical producers as they borrow a swanky Park Avenue apartment to try to persuade investors to back a new production with a millions of dollars. As all stops are pulled out, the apartment is trashed and the audience is treated to a wacky evening of entertainment.

There is an opening night reception at 7 pm. Show performances are at 8 pm evenings, with two matinees at 2 pm on April 16 and 23. Admission is $42 for adults and $5 for children and students. For reservations and information, call 239-472-6862 during box office hours.

The Herb Strauss Theater is on Periwinkle Way, opposite the Sanibel Community House. From your West Wind Inn beach resort accommodation, follow Gulf Drive to Tarpon Bay Road, turn left on Tarpon Bay to Periwinkle Way, then right to Dunlop Street. The theater is on your left.

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Les Miserables

Les Mis Pic for Show Page LargeLes Mis Pic for Show Page LargeIn just two decades, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre has grown from a vacated supermarket space to a first-class theatrical space. Now in its21st season, the Fort Myers live-theatre venue entertains more than 170,000 play-goers each year. The facilities Include a 450-seat dinner theatre, a 100-seat “black-box” theatre called The Off Broadway Palm Theatre, a 120 seat dining room called Café Cabaret and a 30-seat space just off the main lobby called, The Art Café.

So much for background. The most important thing to know now is that “Les Miserables” is on the boards at the Broadway Palm main stage through April 12, 2014. In 2012, the movie version of this inspiring story of love, passion, sacrifice and redemption situated in Paris of the 19thcentury won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, the scenario involves some of theater’s most dramatic and emotional musical moments.

The professional standards of the Broadway Palm are very high, the productions are remarkable, and getting there from the West Wind Inn Sanibel Island beach resort is an easy trip over the bridge to McGregor Blvd and north to Colonial Blvd.

This writer must confess that Les Miserables is one of his all-time favorite musical theater presentations. So, please excuse the enthusiasm.

If you can’t get to Les Miserables, consider one of the future shows – The Music Man, April 17 through May 24; Mid-Life The Crisis Musical, May 29 through June 21 and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, June 26 through August 9th.

Even the food, from salads to desserts, prepared by the chef on premises and served buffet-style, is plentiful, fresh and tasty.

For more information, dates/times/prices and dinner menus, we recommend a visit to the Broadway Palm website

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Israel Fest



With so much at stake in the middle east, this is an uplifting time to join our West Wind Inn’s Jewish guests in celebrating the 66th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. The event, a cultural celebration and Israel Fest, will take place on March 30 at the Jewish Federation campus from 12:30 to 4:00 pm.

Expect a joyous experience with lively musical entertainment by Oren Nizri, international Israeli D.J. and producer, other entertainment including Israeli folk dancing by The Shalom Dancers, a belly dancing performance and performances by local synagogue groups are promised. There also will be Israeli delicacies from falafel, hummus, shwarma to Israeli salads and desserts. They will also be tasting Israeli wines.

For children, there will be an inflatable obstacle course and a basketball throw, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, an archaeological dig and face painting. Families will be able to create a square for a community quilt to be displayed at the Federation. Local Jewish organizations will on hand with information about Israel today.

The Jewish Federation campus is across Summerlin Road from HealthPark Medical Center, at 9701 Commerce Center Court in Fort Myers. Admission is $2 per person; children 5 and under are free. Summerlin Road is the straight-ahead extension of McGregor Blvd. after the Causeway bridge to the mainland. So getting there from your West Wind Inn beach accommodations  is easy.
For more information, visit

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Opera Lovers can never get enough


Opera Lovers can never get enough
, especially when they leave the traditional world of opera performances.

But, just because you need to escape the urban landscape doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of the occasional dose of operatic music and performance.

This is especially true when the Sanibel Music Festival is in residence, as they are now. On Tuesday, March 18, the touring Opera Theater of Connecticut will present “America Sings”. Billed as, “An entertaining and informative look at the development of music theater in America,” the Opera Theater of Connecticut and Alan Mann offer an evening of beautiful music, from the European operettas of Lehar and Gilbert & Sullivan to the musicals of the American Stage.

This Sanibel Music Festival performance is presented at the Sanibel Congregational Church on Periwinkle Way (across the street fom Periwinkle Place), at 8:00 pm. Tickets and information are available at 239-344-7025.

If you will be staying at West Wind Inn, Sanibel’s inn on the beach, the performance venue is an easy ride down Perwinkle Way.

Following, the March 12 event, Opera Theater of Connecticut will perform another program for opera fans under the title, “The Bad Boys and Wicked Women of Opera”. You will enjoy an evening of performances by young stars in training, accompanied by supertitles and witty commentary by Artistic Director Alan Mann.

Put this one on your calendar for March 22. Also at 8:00 pm.

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Not be confused with “Monty” Python,

250px-Gator_and_Python (1)

the next film on the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center Bi-Weekly Film Series is “Monster Python”.

While fascinating, there is nothing funny about this video import from the PBS series, “Inside Nature’s Giants”. This wildlife documentary will be screened on Wednesday,March 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm. The event is free but seats always are limited and available on a first come basis.

For Monster Python, the production team ventures into the swamps of the Florida Everglades to find the illusive and dangerous giant Burmese python. It is uncertain how these Southeast Asia predators found their way to Florida and the Everglades. Nevertheless, the reality is that these voracious giant reptiles are threatening extinction for many indigenous Everglades species.

Reptile authority, Jeanette Wyneken, joins the production team to dissect and investigate two specimens. One is a 9-foot long male. The other is a 14-foot female.

The anatomical and digestive system surprises will keep you in wonderment, as will Richard Dawkins’ descriptions of the evolution of snakes from pre-historic, four-legged lizard-likes to the slithery creatures they are today.

The film is sponsored by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), which advises that all films in this series begin promptly at 2:30 p.m.If staying at Sanibel’s West Wind Inn beach resort, you should have no worries about being on time. We are, after all. the nearest beach resort to the Refuge.

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Have you read about this?

White Orchid of the Everglades

The illusive white orchid of the Everglades, also known as the “Ghost Orchid? It has been the subject of numerous articles and even a crime novel.


It can be found, if it can be found, in the Fakahatchee Strand. Small fortunes have been spent trekking through the Strand to locate it, high in the trees, where it escapes normal human view.


Now, you can learn more about the white, ghost orchid when Mike Owen, lead biologist for Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, appears as a special lecturer in Sanibel Island’s “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center. Owen’s free presentation will be at 10 am and 1 pm, Friday, March 21,


Owen will talk about the famous, wild orchid populations at Fakahatchee Preserve, known as the “Amazon of North America” because of its remarkable flora and fauna – 44 species of native orchids, 14 of native bromeliads, royal palms, bald cypress, Florida panthers, black bears, and more.


Admission is free to the lecture, which is sponsored by The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), as part of the latter’s 12-week FridayAfternoon Lecture Series. Seating for the lectures is limited and available on a first-come basis.


When staying at the West Wind Inn, the Sanibel Island inn and beach resort, you are in the closest such accommodations to J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It’s one reason why we have such an affinity for nature. The other is that our location on the Sanibel beach places us in center of one of Florida’s natural sanctuaries.


We’d love to have you stay with us, and share our love of Nature.

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“Nice body. Good legs.”

Wine FestWe’re not talking about what you think we are. The comments are about wine. They are the kind of observations you might hear tossed around at “Sanibel Uncorked” on February 23. It’s an event in honor of the noble grape and its juice. It’s hosted by Lily & Co. Jewelry Gallery from noon to 2 pm and sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club, with proceeds devoted to four-year college scholarships for local students.

This is the sixth year of Sanibel’s winter wine festival, and if previous years are indicators, it’s sure to be a fun and instructional afternoon of food, wine, and music. Lily & Co. Jewelry Gallery has hosted the event in past years as well.

Local wine distributors Southern Wine and Spirits and Johnson Bros. Liquor Co. will provide a variety of fine wines for tastings during the festival. Culinary samples and complementary wine pairings will be presented by Matt Asen of Timber’s Restaurant as well as other local gourmet chefs, including Karl Hamme of Bailey’s Catering and Prepared Foods Dept. and James Jones of Sweet Melissa’s.

Again this year, there will be a silent auction at Lily & Co., with more than 50 auction items donated for this year’s cause, including a special magnum of Golden Bear red wine. The wine commemorates the 50th anniversary of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus’ first win, complete with his signature and a certificate of authenticity.

Optimists Club President Stan Howard reported, “We had two $6,000, four-year scholarships when we started this. Last year we grew to six.” Lily & Co. has worked with the Optimists for years to raise funds and provide a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the festivities. “I think a lot of people don’t realize what the Optimist Club does for the community,” said Lily & Co. owner Dan Schuyler. “It’s a lot of work to put on these events. When you have groups helping each other it lessens the burden and stress.”

Lily’s is located on Tarpon Bay Road, across the road from Bailey’s General Store. It’s a convenient distance from West Wind Inn, a benefit for guests staying at Sanibel’s beach inn.

Tickets will be available at the door or by calling 472-0836. Donations of $30, (or $25 for designated drivers) are requested. Free valet parking will be available. Each guest will receive a special, commemorative etched wine glass. Tickets are available now at Bailey’s General Store, the Sanibel Cafe in Tahitian Gardens, the Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank, and Lily & Company.

Mark your calendar for Sunday, February 23. This may be one of the most enjoyable charity events you experience all year.

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Edison Festival Of Light

EdisonFestivalLogo copyBetween the Super Bowl and the Olympics, the information highway has left little room for news about the premier event in Southwest Florida – The Edison Festival of Light – which takes place in Fort Myers. In fact, certain outlier aspects of the event are already underway, as a warm up to the major event highlights.

Next up this weekend, Sunday Feb. 9th, downtown Fort Myers will hot the Junior Fun Run (1 PM), the Junior Parade (2:30 PM) and the Junior Coronation and Awards (4:30 PM).

If you are unfamiliar with this annual event, which has been celebrated in one form or another by Fort Myers since 1938, here is some background. The highlight of the festival is the Grand Parade. It will take place in Fort Myers, at 7 PM, on Saturday, Feb 15th starting at Fort Myers High School’s Edison Stadium and proceeding to the its conclusion in the River District. (This is a reversal of the earlier route which started downtown – now the River District – and continued to the High School for a final stadium celebration. The Edison Festival of Light Grand parade has been touted as the country’s largest, lighted nighttime parade, although lately some bowl-game parades may have surpassed it in crowd size. It is still surprisingly large for our small community.

Marching bands come from around the state and country, attracted by both the renown of the event and the nice February weather in Southwest Florida. A highlight of the parade as been the introduction the Festival Queen & King and their court, selected from young ladies in the community. As a bow to the even younger area residents, a Junior Parade was created, including its own “Junior” Royal Court, hence the Feb. 9th coronation and parade.

Returning to the Grand Parade, one of its quirkier aspects was the habit of local residents placing folding chairs on the sidewalks along the parade route to reserve their space for the big night. Since these place markers were often put out a month or more before the parade, sidewalks littered with aluminum folding chairs started to become an unattractive nuisance. Of late, they have been replaced by strips of duct tape displaying the name of the “reserving” parties. The significance of this is its demonstration how popular the Grand Parade is for spectators.

Warming up for the Grand parade are Saturday events such as a pre-Parade party downtown in Centennial Park, a craft and vintage show also in Centennial Park and a 5K run before the parade. On Sunday, Feb. 16th, there is a Classic Car Show down town, a mutt strut (dogs on parade) and a benefit concert at the Davis Art Center.

As you can tell, this is a lot of stuff to do on one weekend. Fortunately, if you are staying with us at WestWind Inn, you can squeeze in a little beach time to relax.

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kki Matsumoto, revered Sanibel artist, has passed

IkkiTasteArtRegular visitors to and residents of Sanibel Island would have seen Ikki Matsumoto’s distinctive art in numerous island and other Southwest Florida venues. He was known for stylized portrayals of birds, sealife and semi-tropical landscapes reflective of the nature on his beloved Sanibel Island. His art decorated posters and apparel offered at such respected arts organizations as Sanibel’s BIG Arts and Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers. He was also known for a joyous and generaous spirit, donating numerous examples of his art to community fund-raisers.

Born in Tokyo as the second of seven children of an accomplished Japanese artist father, he studied art at the Art Acadeny of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he met his future wife, Polly. The two moved to Sanibel in 1975, where they owned an art galleries featuring his work and Polly’s fiber art.

“Ikki’s work had incomparable charm and lightness, always with a sense of delight at the subjects he portrayed”, said William Waites, who had a tribal art gallery with his wife in the same Sanibel plaza as one of the Ikki and Polly’s galleries. “His visits to our shop were bright spots in our days, always accompanied by a smile and sparkle that epitomized his artistic vision.”

Eventually, the family moved to Ohio, but their sojourn into snow and cold brought them back to Southwest Florida, where the purchased a house in rural Buckingham. Sadly, Ikki’s eyes began to fail, much to the concern of those who loved him and his work. Then, in 2013 he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. Attempts to reverse the progress of the illnes proved fruitless and Ikki said goodbye to us on December 31, 2031.

Among is accomplishments were illustrations for the famous Joy of Cooking cook book, an Easter egg commissioned for the White House by Nancy Reagan and whimsical line drawings for children’s books. He will be missed.

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