Hello Again, Ms. Feet -

Remember I'm a flat lander. You answered one question for me, but your answer raised another question. What is a palapa bar? I know what a bar is but not a palapa. And another thing - are these palapa bars open year-round?

-via the internet

You are not the first to raise this question and I truly meant to address it a year or two ago --

A palapa bar is an establishment that serves (primarily alcoholic) beverages and possibly munchies; is located more or less on the waterfront; specializes in little umbrella-bedecked "fou-fou" drinks but does a brisk beer business, and finally - is not air conditioned because it is built under a palapa. And what is a palapa? Basically it is a roof made of or covered by a layer of discarded palm fronds.

Palapas make sense here on the Island, as palm fronds are cheap and plentiful and the pleasant breeze coming off the water allows the palapa bar patron to enjoy his/her mai-tai in relative coolness and comfort -- while still enjoying the great outdoors.

There is nothing like sitting under a palapa sipping a cold one and watching the bikinis go by to make you feel like you have truly gone tropical. But beware of establishments calling themselves palapa bars lurking within the confines of inland, air-conditioned clubs. The only things they have in common with a real palapa bar is the palm fronds and pricey fou-fou drinks.

We have about a dozen bona-fide palapa bars here, and many of them stay open deep into the fall -- until the weather takes a prolonged turn for the worse. (This doesn't happen all that often on SPI, but when it does, you do NOT want to experience it sitting in a palapa bar.) And when a nice day comes along, most of them will pop open again, like mushrooms sprouting after a downpour.

Finally, I would go so far as to say that spending some quality time in a palapa bar in an essential element of the South Padre Island experience.

Hey sandy!

Summer is pretty much history -- isn't it about time for you to start talking about SPI Sandcastle Days?

Indeed it is!

The Sons of the Beach Sandcastle Wizards are really excited about this year's competition - the 11th annual, scheduled for Oct. 17-19, 1998 at the Bahia Mar - and we are already hard at work trying to make it the best one ever. We are especially interested in raising more community interest and involvement. For example, we are talking with the nice people over at the Laguna Madre Humane Society about adding a new kids category. This competition will feature an animal theme and will be judged by spectators who can vote for their favorite entries by putting coins in the adjacent containers -- with all proceeds going to benefit the Humane Society.

We are also very eager to get more local teams to enter the open categories. Several area businesses have expressed interest in fielding teams, and more are encouraged. In the interest of producing more and better sculptures, Steve "DuneHead" Mutter (check out his excellent sand sculpture work in the lobby of the Sea Ranch Restaurant if you haven't already!) is offering free sand sculpture demonstration and instruction on the beach at Boomerang Billy's (at the Surf Motel) most Wednesdays at 1 pm.

Finally, we are actively seeking smaller local sponsorships in the form of meals, activities and goody-bag stuffers for our visiting master sculptors. So -- local business owners beware! Amazin' Walter will be paying you a visit and we hope you will do your part to keep this great event alive.

For all the latest info on sandcastle Days '98, point your net browser to http://unlitter.com/contest98. For more information on the Laguna Madre Humane Society, visit their new web-site at http://unlitter.com/critters

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://www.south-padre-island.com) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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