Like much of Southwest Florida, our little community of Goodland thrives on the tourism industry during the winter season. In the winter, the few businesses in town are booming and the population is at its peak. The fishermen are hard at work and the post office is always packed with cars. Many visitors cruise through the streets admiring the one-of-a-kind cottages and unique gardens that Goodland is known for. The whole town comes to life during these months.
And then summer hits. The end of stone crab season, May 15, marks the beginning of the decline in our population. Stone crab traps pile up along the roads as the fishermen begin to pull them out of the water. The snowbirds that help to keep our town alive begin their journeys back north to more moderate climates. This soon causes the restaurants in town to experience a slower pace. In fact, two out of the four restaurants in town have now closed for the summer months. The Old Marco Lodge and The Little Bar Restaurant hosted excellent end of the season parties before temporarily closing their doors in the month of June.
As the temperatures begin to rise and the rainy season hits, a new population comes to town: mosquitoes. Even many of the locals tend to leave for a while as the heat and bugs can seem unbearable. With a regular population of nearly four hundred, it is my guess that more than half of our residents are gone by the end of June.
Yet, those of us who stay still find a way to make something out of what appears to be nothing. Armed with our cans of bug spray and sun block, we brave the heat and bugs to head to one of the two watering holes left open in town, or to the post office to see a friendly face. One of the best places in town to run into a local is Marker 8, located on the east end of our island. Open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we are able to gather here for a great meal and conversation. As the weekend rolls around, Stan’s Idle Hour opens for us on Saturday and Sunday.
Fruit salads and crisp veggies from the farmer’s market at Stan’s accompany hot dogs and hamburgers for local barbeques. We huddle in our air-conditioned homes for card games, movie nights, and friendly banter.
Choosing to live in a small town, not all is bad with the decrease in our population. Where we used to know most of the people in town, now we know everyone. We don’t have to fight with the Sunday “traffic” or wait for a table at our local establishments. The island becomes so quiet, even in the daytime, that it brings a sense of peace to those who remain.
While we always welcome all visitors to our town, the summer in Goodland seems to be a time where the locals have it all to themselves. This is something we all enjoy as the warm weather rolls in. Yet it’s not long before we become wishful for the days when the lively energy returns to our village.