It’s a wonderful day in Collier County! Having just returned from a one week visit to Ohio to see spring flowers, it’s always good to be back home! As many of you know, I’ve lived in Collier – in the same house – for 47 years, coming from Cleveland, Ohio. I used to love the spring and summer flowers, but here in this part of Florida we don’t see any of those flowers, and I really wanted to see them again after all these years, so I booked a flight and guessed about the weather. (I was so disappointed to see Delta Airline has pulled out of Canton/Akron Airport altogether!) For the first time in my life, I flew American Airlines, and they were really a good replacement, but because of Covid things are now different. They didn’t serve a drink, they didn’t serve a pretzel, not even a cookie. But they were friendly and took off on time and arrived on time, both ways. The airport (CLT) had lots of problems, but American gave fine service. I noticed a couple weeks before leaving that they were having warm summery weather in Berlin, Ohio…very unusual for that time of year, I guess. Anyway, the three weeks before I arrived, they had temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s, but the week before arriving it started cooling off. (For Ohio people, they know what I’m talking about – Michigan too). When I arrived, it was in the 50’s but I had hopes to see it warm up again. Lo and behold it kept getting colder, and by the fifth day they sprayed “liquid salt” on all the roads in Amish Country. I’d never heard of that before, but they said it’s much better that the salt they used to put on roads and doesn’t bother the cars as much either. The next night I got up a couple times to see the snow falling!!! It snowed all night, and there was a nice thick blanket of snow to greet everyone when they woke up. I didn’t leave my cottage…way too cold. I turned up the heat and flipped on the fireplace to take the chill out of the air in my little place. I took many pictures just to remind me of what I was ????missing??? It was nice to see after all these years, but that should hold me for the next 47 years. This year I’ll go back when it warms up. The horse and buggies didn’t seem to mind it at all, the cows seemed to be happy as well. It really was a beautiful sight to see. By the way, Florida still has the best flowers and trees and birds around, in my opinion.
*Upon arriving back at home, the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship was already in full swing, but I was able to enjoy the last two days of this wonderful sport that is calling the East Naples Park…HOME! People were here from all over the country, even though COVID still lurked around the corner. They estimate overall approximately 2,100 athletes! They figure about 30,000 spectators over the eight days of the event. The Park looked spectacular. They now have 60 Pickleball Courts in one park – more than any other place on earth!! The County staff worked hard at keeping the park looking it’s best. As usual, between Terri Graham, Chris Evon, Jim Ludwig and Carol Caefer, things went ever so well. It ran like a well-oiled machine! People knew their places. Even when there was a break for advertising the TV crew needed, the team kept things moving right along and the audience was always entertained. As an observer, I think things went beautifully well. This was the first year it was telecast live on CBS Sports! Very impressive. The Flag March around the courts was again beautiful. There were some surprises in the winner’s circle, but that’s what sportsmanship is all about. We had a couple stops and hiccups with rain, but the volunteers quickly mopped things up and moved forward. You should have seen those volunteers! I see them every year and am always amazed that they keep coming back for more! They work all day with no pay, in the heat or the cold or the rain. There were approximately 500 volunteers!! They stay friendly and helpful. They deliver food, pick up after others, help at every request, direct people to whatever they need, and they help park the cars – thanks chief Kiwanian Billy Ricigliano – and the reward for parking the cars was $30,000 to the Kiwanis Clubs to help the youth in our community. I know Bill started work every day at 6:00 AM and stayed till the last car was out! Yes, I saw Ted DeGroot there constantly as well. The volunteer staff was so friendly that people just want to come back again and again, and now the attendees recognize the volunteers! They welcome each other again for another year. Then there is Gloria who comes from Chicago and bakes every day to distribute goodies to the volunteers, and she bakes them somewhere? before she gets to the park each morning for another treat! You’ve never tasted Baklava until you’ve tasted Gloria’s! Her husband’s name is George, and that’s all I know, but they both come back from out of state every year! Not to play, only to volunteer. No, they don’t even have a condo here, but they come anyway. More than one person exclaimed they personally come back every year because this tournament is always so friendly, so helpful, lots of fun, and well run. You can thank the four people named above who made this all happen. (And yes, they gave me an award as well) It was nice to see so many county people attending, especially Commissioner Penny Taylor, who’s district this tournament is played in, Commissioner Rick LoCastro, Executive Director of Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau Jack Wert, the new County Manager (in a few weeks) Mark Isackson, Parks Director Barry Williams (he’s always there cheering us on!!), Kathy Topoleski, park manager, the county’s grounds people keeping the place looking neat and even Nick Casalanguida stopped by. He’s a sports guy for sure! I hope all of you had a chance to stop by and see it. There’s nothing like seeing it in person.