Almost 300 people attended the annual open house on St. Vincent Island hosted by the Supporters of St. Vincent.

In spite of cold weather, forbidding skies and whitecaps on the bay, the passenger barge made seven trips to St. Vincent Island on Friday, March 22. This year, parkas and hoodies were more in evidence than shorts and sandals.

Visitors were treated to walking tours including a coastal photo walk with Debbie Hooper; bird walks guided by Barry Kinzle; a beach walk with Brad Smith and a photo safari led by the St. Marks Photo Club.

Wagon tours of the island were a bracing experience but they were still booked solid throughout the day.

Historian Jan Pietryzk regaled the crowd with curious tales of life on the island.

The Apalachicola Estuarine Research Reserve, Apalachicola Riverkeepers, the University of Florida Marine Turtle Research Group, Friends of the St. Joseph Preserves and the St. George Island Lighthouse Association were among the booths with displays at the event. Some exhibitors canceled in the face of poor weather conditions.

John Miick and Cletus Heaps were on hand once more to provide their own special brand of beachy blues.

The open house was scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. but, around noon, the wind picked up and Refuge Manager Shelly Stiaes decided to cut the day short due to rough conditions on the water.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Stiaes.

At least 280 people had already made the trip across the pass, but on the final crossing, some of the passengers were soaked by whitecaps splashing onto the deck and the pilot had difficulty landing the barge.

In spite of chilly winds and glowering skies, St. Vincent was, as always, an amazing and beautiful place to visit. Attendees bundled up but they didn’t complain.

The St. Vincent Supporters group, once again provided hot dogs to visitors and, this year, the warm snack was especially popular.