Living in a seasonal town is still very new to me. Though I am trying to acclimate quickly, many unfamiliar things about my home continue to surprise me.
My July 4th memories have always been made of Hallmark staples: red, white, blue, family, fireworks and food. But, they also were tainted by the woes of over-planning and stress. I expected this year to follow that time-tested recipe, sprinkled with a touch of homesickness. The sheer distance from my son, family and friends all but guaranteed a lonely, wistful holiday.
Contrary to my expectations, this Independence Day turned out to be a remarkably stress-free holiday, kicked off by Friday’s celebration at Marker 8.5. The atmosphere was familiar and informal, reminiscent of a family reunion or a backyard neighborhood barbecue. I didn’t once worry
about keeping to a tight schedule or having too many things to accomplish, and that loathsome homesickness never even made an appearance.
I had a good time with new friends, ate delicious food, drank a few cold beers and listened to great music provided by Jim Allen. Even though the beautiful Southwest Florida day brought its signature oppressive heat, it became a catalyst for more socializing as people bounced from one shady spot to the next to take much-needed relief from the blistering mid-afternoon sun.
Among a markedly thinner population and a shrinking list of open establishments, the bash was another reminder of season’s end. This was the second year for the now annual Independence Day tradition hosted by the restaurant. Chef Mike Duncan has been consistent in his local-friendly, grounded approach to
running things. Since purchasing the business April 1, 2013, he has made quite a few welcome changes to the historic watering hole, while keeping the history and charm of old Florida in Marker 8.5.
I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mike and the Marker 8.5 staff for their decision to remain open year-round. While off-season solitude, boredom, and monotony threaten to bring us down, full-time residents like me can still partake in some necessary human contact and happy hours.
Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-896-0426