Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finished with Florida

No, this doesn't mean that we're not going back to Florida. It means that I realized I hadn't posted my final thoughts about our time in Florida. So here goes . . .

The Villages, where we stayed,  is located in a part of Florida that wasn't developed until the last part of the nineteenth century. And then it was agriculture, especially cattle-raising. One can still see a number of farms with cattle grazing peacefully in the fields close to The Villages. 

These life-sized sculptures are at the entrance to the Brownwood Paddock Town Square,
one of three town squares in The Villages. An homage to the real history of this area.
The Villages, a "census-designated area" was begun in the 1970s. Harold Schwartz, who was from Michigan, was the developer. He had been selling land tracts in the area via mail order but was put out of business by a federal law that prohibited such commerce. So what was he to do with all that land? Build a mobile home park, of course. In a few years, Schwartz brought in his son, Gary Morse, to help develop the park. Sales improved when amenities and nearby commercial development were offered to the residents. In the 1980s Schwartz began to buy large tracts of land nearby for future expansion. The name of the overall development was changed to The Villages in 1992. 

However, to read plaques at various locations in The Villages you'd think this community would have been here for several hundred years. NOT! 

I guess Schwartz and Morse had a sense of humor as there were lots of smiles to be seen on the faces of people reading these plaques. The history may be fake, but, for the most part, the people are real. We made a number of friends during our 2+ months in The Villages and are looking forward to returning next year to renew those friendships.

During our last two weeks in The Villages, Rick was determined to swim in as many of the nearly 100 pools as he could. He may have dipped his toes in at least one new pool a day during that time and on one occasion, he enjoyed at least two of them in one afternoon.
Each of the villages within The Villages has its own swimming pool and all look pretty much the same.
Some are designated as "family" pools which means children can swim there.  Others 
are adult pools (users have to be over the age of 19). A few are "sport" pools where various 
water-based exercise classes are held. Any resident of The Villages can use any of the pools.
As The Villages expands, the amenities (pools, bocci ball and tennis courts, golf courses, etc.) are installed before the homes are built so that new residents have immediate access to recreational activities when they move in. We've been told that build out will end in about two years because there is no more land available for the developer to buy. We'll wait and see how that claim turns out!

The local food in and near The Villages was great: Oakwood Smokehouse Grill, Gator Joe's (I even had alligator bites for an appetizer), Eaton's Beach Sandbar & Grill (owner is a friend of Aaron Rodgers), Koyame Asian Express, and Fiesta Grande Mexican GrillWe won't be going back to a few of the restaurants (mostly the chains) that we sampled. And there are still many, many more eateries to check out upon our return.

It seems like there is some sort of "festival" or big public gathering on the town squares just about every weekend - Mardi Gras, car shows, craft shows, and one we really enjoyed. It was the Buffalo Pride BBQ Bash. For $5 we sampled delicious pork, beef, and chicken barbecue. The event is one of the most popular during the year and benefits The Villages Charter Schools. Yes, even though it's a retirement community, The Villages has a school - for the children of anyone who works for The Villages or for any of the commercial establishments that are in The Villages. Apparently the school is one of the best in the state. 

Rick commented during our time in Florida that we hadn't seen and heard as much live music in ten years as we experienced during two months. Every town square in The Villages (there are three of them) features live music and dancing every night of the year - holidays included. The only time the squares close down is if the temperature drops below 47 degrees. Only one night was that the case. Yes, it was cool, even in Florida!
Rocky & the Rollers is a very popular band playing lots of classic 1960s and 1970s
songs. The town square was packed with people dancing to the music.
Some of the bands, like Rocky's, have a number of instrumentalists and singers. Others are what I'd call "kicked-up karaoke" where the accompaniment to the vocalists is on an iPad. 

Other music that I particularly enjoyed was a Bruce Springsteen tribute band that played in a 1000-seat sanctuary Methodist Church. Lots of liturgical dance going on that night! We also heard the Singing Servers of the Central Florida Lyric Opera at one of the 12 country clubs in The Villages. In between taking our order and bringing out our food, the waiters performed numbers from well-known operas and musicals. The singers were great, the food was not so great. 

One singer that Rick has become a fan of - someone he discovered through a vintage trailer podcast - is Antsy McClain. Antsy grew up in a trailer park and his band is the Trailer Park Troubadours. His music is a bit of rockabilly, folk, rock, and just plain fun! I thought at first he would be a great act for The Villages, but then realized that he's too original to be on the docket. Village people like to hear the same familiar songs at the town squares. Songs like "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" and "YMCA." Cover songs. That's not Antsy's style as you can hear in this video. He was warming up before his performance at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa back in March.

Well, that's it from Florida for 2015. Check back early next year for more of our adventures in the Sunshine State.

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