Beat goes on at Treasure Island Beach

08/13/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

The Treasure Island City Commission last week passed an ordinance that would set a curfew requiring any activity that takes place on the beach to end at 10 p.m. during daylight savings time and at 9 p.m. the rest of the year.

The measure is seen as a compromise of sorts after complaints of unruly behavior at the Treasure Island Drum Circle. It prompted one City Commissioner to contemplate banning the gatherings all together.

The syncopated beat begins as you approach the beach, hundreds of feet away from the circle. ... This is the drum circle, an event that has been happening on Treasure Island Beach every Sunday evening for approximately 6½ years. People of different races, ages, and backgrounds are coming together.

Signe Santiestevanou has only been a regular at the beach for the last three months, but she calls the gatherings a way of connecting to the universe.

Attendance on Sunday nights has gone as high as 500 in recent months. However, last night, with clouds threatening and lightning in the distance, it was a smaller but still intense crowd of drummers, dancers, jugglers and observers.

Several of those interviewed by WMNF say the weekly ritual, which generally begins around 5:30 and can last until midnight, can be construed almost as a form of therapy.

Ann from Tampa was attending the Drum Circle with her husband for the first time in several months.

But this idealic, some would say, utopian setting has had its share of problems in the past year.

Charges of underage drinking, public urination, drug use and littering had prompted some complaints from local businesses. That in turn, caused some members of the Treasure Island City Commission to warn the drum circle it needed to police itself better, or else.

Rob Davis has been attending the Circle for the past 4 years. He says teenagers who crash the circle after partying all afternoon are the main culprits – and he says he wants to disspell the notion that the Circle is a party place.

Because of such complaints, the Treasure Island City Commission held a workshop last month to discuss the issue. That’s when a proposed ordinance stating that the Drum Circle would have to conclude by 9 p.m. was first introduced.

However, members of the Drum Circle were able to negotiate a compromise to push the curfew to 10 p.m. during the summer, and 9 at other times.

Dennis Crnolatas from Tampa has drummed for years at the Circle. He said he and the overwhelming majority of Circle attendees want to work with local law enforcement and the city to ensure the event continues for a long time.

But not everybody is okay with the curfew. St. Petersburg resident Billy Mack, also known as Drum Circle Billy, has been coming to the beach for 3 years to participate in the circle. Adorned with makeup and a host of different drums, the British native says a few bad actors shouldn’t spoil what it a great weekly event.

The Treasure Island City Commission will present the ordinance for a curfew on the beach for a second reading next week.

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