Freshly back from the great island of Goodland, I’m still aglow from the fun of a terrific Pancake Breakfast, lots of fellowship, great food shared with a number of people like Beth and Bob, and then a visit to Stan’s Idle Hour to visit Stan’s wonderful son Steve and his sweetheart Trish! And as a huge bonus, we get to listen to The Ben Allen Band. The weather was anything but great, but you wouldn’t know it from the dancing, happy crowd enjoying the music and feelin’ pretty good. I was fortunate that Paul and Sharon came over and asked me to sit with them. What nice people! All three of us even danced! It was such a nice day off work, even if the weather wasn’t the best, but we were getting the rain we needed so badly, so that was another bonus! Ben Allen and his band were terrific as usual. I need to buy one of their CDs, if they have one.
- Last night was the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner and Dance at the lovely Hideaway Beach Club, where we thanked the outgoing President Erik Condee, and welcomed the new President, Dr. Richard Seigel. We all know he’ll be great, but I’m sure you will read about the event in another part of this Coastal Breeze newspaper. Erik also mentioned the broken lights from Hurricane Irma over the Jolley Bridge. I mentioned to the crowd that those lights are the property of FDOT, and we, the County, have been begging them to fix them for over a year now. The FDOT owns Collier Blvd from U.S. 41 E to Marco Island, and the County does not have the authority to work on those segments. (When I returned to my seat at the table, Fire Chief Murphy informed me that the city staff had just gotten word from FDOT that they would be fixing the lights in February. They didn’t mention the Washboard Road.) I mentioned to the crowd attending the Chamber function that the FDOT will be attending the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization made up of representatives from Marco Island, Naples, Everglades City and the County) meeting in the Government Building on U.S. 41E in the County Building on the third floor at 9 AM on Friday, February 8, so please come to the meeting, register to become a speaker, and mention to them the need to 1. Fix the lights; and also 2. The Washboard Road; and if any of you live on the newly constructed section of U.S. 41E, east of 951 – the FDOT never installed 3. Overhead street lights along that section of road, yet the speed limit increases to 60 miles an hour and there are at least three mobile home parks for 55 and older folks along that section, where people’s eyesight might be failing, and also about 1,000 Habitat Homes where people walk and ride bikes to get to work and to school. This is a very dangerous section of road that is dark at night, especially during the winter months, and the FDOT increased the speed limit with no street lights! Anyone who would like to attend that meeting is certainly welcome to sit in, or comment on the situation. We could use your help because it doesn’t seem they have heard us.
- I hope many of you have been to the Marco Island Historical Museum to see the display from the Smithsonian Institute featuring the “Marco” Cat and so much more. This museum has grown to be everything the people were hoping for and more, and this past rainy, cold weekend (January 18 through 20) was the perfect time to visit! Families and visitors alike would have enjoyed it because it was inside, out of the cold and rain, and ever so interesting! If you haven’t been there recently, please make a point to go, and then when friends and/or family arrive, take THEM there as well! You have no idea how it has grown, all the features and new features that have arrived to study and marvel over. I first became acquainted with the Historical Society back in the early 2000’s when a few dedicated people came to my office on Marco, which included Bill and Betsy Perdichizzi, Chris Helland and Eleanor Burnham. They had this idea to build a museum, and they were hoping the County could donate $25,000 to get them started. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm that I called the County Manager right in front of them on a speaker phone and asked if there was anything we could do, and he volunteered that the County owned the land across the street from the library and had always designated it to be a museum, so if they would raise the funds and build it and then deed it over to the County, we would give them the land (which was worth $3 million at the time) and operate the museum. They took on that challenge, and somehow… with the help and cooperation and dedication of the Marco community, they raised $4,500,000 to build that museum, and Craig Woodward designed it! Of course, many others came on board early on to help, fundraise money, and keep the ball rolling in the right direction. I never saw anything like it! I was overwhelmed with admiration and impressed with their dedication. Of course, many others joined in right away, and the group kept growing and moving forward, but that was the beginning as I knew it then. I don’t know how that group began before then, only when I became a part of their dream and could watch it from the sidelines, and maybe help a little along the way.
- I wasn’t able to attend the grand opening of the Key Marco Cat exhibit on Saturday morning because I was driving to Sarasota to visit with my Amish family who were down from Ohio, and who were leaving before I could get back up to Sarasota. Let me explain, in case you were not aware, that Florida has an Amish settlement also, not just Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, New York, etc. It is located below the city of Sarasota, in a little tiny village called Pinecraft. This is where the Amish go to vacation in the winter when they cannot work on their farms or in the businesses that cater to the visitors and have slowed down. This is the time for their employees to take a vacation because they are needed in the summer. They take buses that regularly shuttle the Amish back and forth each year. Many of these people then work in the restaurants in Pinecraft so they can continue to work and earn a living. In this little village of Pinecraft they have two restaurants: Der Dutchman (oh how I wish we had one down here!), and Yoder’s. It’s like traveling back in time, with the foods we all grew up with, plus new items as well. Der Dutchman has a salad bar like no other! They also have a bakery and sell cheeses, Trail Bologna, bread, breakfast Danish items, and many other items you won’t find down here. Yoder’s has pies like no others. Oh yes, there is a nice quilt shop in Pinecraft, a wooden-furniture shop with solid wood furniture made by the Amish (beautiful craftsmanship!), a bulk food store, an indoor farmer’s market, and on the second floor of Der Dutchman Restaurant they have a splendid gift shop that doesn’t sell Amish clothes but beautiful clothes we all can wear, and purses, jewelry, clocks, kitchen items, doilies, and more. The Dutchman Corp has added a new hotel called Carlisle Village Inn so you can stay awhile! One thing different than where we live is that no shops are open on Sunday, in keeping within the Amish way of life…and the Bible…Sunday is a day of rest to enjoy with family and friends, so don’t count on going up there for a Sunday dinner. In case you are wondering, I take I-75 to exit 207, exit left, then right onto Cattleman’s Road, and drive two miles, then go to Bahia Vista Road and turn left and go another two miles and you are there. It’s not very big, so don’t blink, but you’ll know you are there because you’ll see the Amish folks riding bikes – two-wheel and three-wheel. (No horses and buggies up there.) Also, many, many Mennonites congregate there in the winter.
- And before I finish this column, I want to remind you to go to the Kiwanis Club Car Show at Veterans Community Park on Sunday, February 17 from 9:30 AM to 3 PM. There is an admission charge of $5, lots of food to buy, Italian pastries, and gorgeous cars! See you there.