They rode the streets of Flagler Beach this morning on broomed up bicycles and skeletal frames, 30 black-robed and pointy-hatted witches who managed to ding-dong their infernal peloton through 40 blocks down and up the south end of the city without a single one getting tried, stoned, burned or thrown in a lake. What they got were thumbs up and broad smiles, waves and brandished smart-phones from residents and drive-bys not entirely sure of what they were seeing, but entirely bewitched all the same.
It was the first Witches of Flagler Beach Bike Ride, an event organized by the fledgling Flagler Beach Creates, a volunteer organization that emerged in 2020 to give the city its own overlay of arts and culture and reinforce the city’s unique charms–not just for tourists, but for its own residents and businesses. Witches of Flagler Beach was to be a fund-raiser. Friday night 14 witches had registered for the bike ride. By the time they took to the street, they were double double toil and dollars, delighting the organizers and setting the event on a surer course in coming years.
“Because Flagler Beach has this really cool vibe, we want to enrich the community through art and events in public places,” says Joseph Pozzuoli, a founding board member of Flagler Beach Creates as he describes the organization’s start with renaming the city’s five public parking spaces–Right Whale, Pelican, Loggerhead Turtle, and so on–and designing artful signs to go with them. The group also involved children in painting the city’s trash cans something other than their drab brown.
The concept originated at the city’s economic development task force, where Pozzuoli is also a member, but he wanted the organization to have more autonomy than can a government advisory board. Flagler Beach Creates was born, and now has a 12-member board that includes Ken Bryan, currently the chairman of the city commission (and a middle school art teacher in the past, among his many talents: he has a degree in art, he paints and he sculpts). As Pozzuoli spoke, there came Bryan as the witches were gathering this morning under a gazebo at Wickline Park, all done up in a black cape and something between a sorcerer and a jedi.
“This is the attire for the next commission,” Bryan said as he drew looks from a bevy of witches, among them fellow-commissioner Deborah Phillips and Bryan’s wife, Lauren, who would end up in a tie with Mary Moore for best-decorated bike. That was the [point of this morning’s bike ride: to turn bikes into witches’ brooms and spook the spokes. None flew a-la-ET, exactly, but as they chimed their way down Flagler and Daytona Avenues to 23rd Street and back in a Tour de Flagler-like stretch, they created their own hilarious circle of Hades at the decidedly non-witching hour of 8, half an hour after the sun rose, and under an accursed drizzle, with a drenching rain just before and just after the ride: not just Matt Doughney, the Flagler Beach police chief who rode with the peloton, was watching out for them.
As was Tom Nugent of Flagler Bike Shop, who inspected every bike, inflated any tire or and provided any necessary repairs–“make sure nothing stuck in the wheels too bad, although there’s a lot going on on these bikes,” he says, looking at a row of wheels as if dragged through a cemetery’s weeds and bones. There was also Rob Luther, who toggled between flank and drag rider to keep car traffic rolling while keeping the witches safe. But Liz Storrs was the Alpha Witch.
Before they set out Stephanie Luther, who’d been hosting the check-in table with Richard Hamilton, set out the rules of the brooms: no cell phones, no blowing through stop signs, no passing the Alpha Witch, no racing, no following riders too closely, no draping of witches’ robes over bikes’ safety equipment, and so on. “And we’re not postponed no matter what. Even though a little rain, it’s not going to melt us witches,” she said.
There was no need of Hawthorne to remind anyone that witches are metaphors for darlings who always behave better than their would-be prosecutors: they were the original MeToo movement, a few centuries before their time. The witches this morning were hosted for a water break at the half-way point, at Deborah Phillips’s driveway, where a life-size skeleton served as water-bar man and the witches could catch their breath, check their phones, pose for a few pictures, and make the return trip back to Wickline.
This is all just a start. “We’re going to do chalk art events, block off streets,” Pozzuoli says. “We have murals throughout the city. We’re going to create a map so as to become a walking community to go see the murals.” You can see some of those murals here, here, here and here. “We want to have fundraisers like this so we could actually commission a sculptor and maybe have it somewhere in the library or somewhere.” (A work by the sculptor Harry Messersmith is a possibility, if Flagler Beach Creates raises enough money.) “Our whole point is to have high-quality art and design. We want Flagler Beach to be a walking community, that’s part of Flagler Beach Creates.”
The organization, headed by Brenda Wotherspoon–a member of the city’s planning and architectural review board–also wants to involve elementary school children in various events. This morning Flagler Beach Creates set up its event a few feet away from the weekly Flagler Beach Farmers’ Market. It wasn’t a coincidence. The farmers’ market is organized by Flagler Strong, the increasingly visible–and influential–non-profit whose volunteers are a form of non-uniformed first responders whenever Flagler Beach residents are in distress (hurricanes, fires, floods), when the beach needs cleaning up, when city streets need sprucing up. Flagler Beach Creates operates under Flagler Strong’s non-profit umbrella, though the two organizations are distinct. “They’re the heroes,” Wotherspoon says of Flagler Strong.
“This is sort of a beginning, sort of an introduction,” Bryan, the city commissioner, said of today’s inaugural event. “We’re hoping that next year we can double it and just start increasing it and raising funds for Flagler Creates, because that’s our mission, is to contribute back to the community just like we do with Flagler Strong. We’re just looking at participation and getting the community more involved.”
Follow Flagler Beach Creates through its Facebook page.
“Without a single one getting stoned” Did I read this correctly? 😆
Wow, that was a ton of fun! Thank you to everyone for their support in both riding and donating to Flagler Beach Creates’ 1st Annual Witches of Flagler Beach Ride!
probably would have been nice if it was widely advertised before the event instead of after the event. But this is Flagler!
You should follow the FlaglerLive calendar and Daily Briefing. It was in both.
I’m really taken back by your comment, “But this is Flagler!”. Being the first year, this fundraising event was properly marketed to the targeted audience. Even beyond, Flagler Creates is a part of Flagler Strong and the time leading up to the event was spent on helping those affected by Ian. There are those who unselfishly give to their community and those who pound on their keyboards. #WeAreFlaglerStrong
I love this!
Love this. Congrats to all who organized and participated.
Left my house this morning only to be confronted with this coven of witches on s. Flagler av. .Too funny!
I’m a witch and I approve this message 😁
Wow! Bewitching good fun! I’d like to join in next year. 😊
Fantastic idea. The Arts are so important. Spurs creative thought. Independent thought. Uniqueness. I’m a musician and a writer. I fell in love with The Arts when I was a kid. My mother, she played piano, flute, spoke 3 languages, and dabbled in poetry. My father built an entire town one year for under our Christmas tree – styrofoam houses, bridges, and people – all decorated and detailed.
Both my parents had creative genes so The Arts were always appreciated in our house. Over the years, I’ve played piano, flute, tuba, drums, xylophone, and have written a half a dozen fiction books and a published book of poetry – under a pseudonym of course. I’m even trying to learn the languages my mother spoke – German, Magyar, and French. Without The Arts, the world is a very dark and depressing place.
Wow what a nice community.
Joe WolfArth says