Downtown Sarasota skyline, nearing dusk
Downtown Sarasota skyline, nearing dusk

Sconnie Turned Sarasotan: Things I love about Sarasota as a relocated Midwesterner

The sun and the sea aren’t the only things I’ve grown to appreciate about Sarasota as a relocated Midwesterner.

As a relocated Midwesterner, I can appreciate Florida in a way the native-borns cannot. I refuse to become blasé – every dolphin, every Siesta sunset, every shark tooth is a miracle. My first 23 years were in Wisconsin and it was my now husband who lured me to the Sunshine State. While of course I miss the apple-picking, snow days, soft grass, and Summerfest, there are plenty of things I truly love about Sarasota as a former thick-blooded Sconnie, such as:

  • I never minded the cold weather, even in the middle of winter, trudging uphill through the UW campus on Bascom. It was the grey skies that got me. They felt claustrophobic and depressing. Even in the midst of our “coldest” season, the skies in Sarasota remain blue. Maybe we’ll get a small shower to give a reprieve from the sunshine here and there, but then those endless azure skies return, as they always do.
  • Up north, the first sign of spring was the robin. Here, it’s when the screech owls nest in my mango tree. Summer? It’s when I spot my first manatee of the season, returning from wintering in Tampa.
  • Before Sarasota, my hubs and I spent a few years in Miami and I panicked, thinking I regretted moving south. But then a job brought us to Sarasota and it was like being home, but warm – the place was full of fellow Midwesterners – Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, the whole shebang. And with them, they brought the things I missed from home, such as a Wisconsin cheese store for my curds fix, bars that focus on playing the games from back home, and Midwestern kindness.
  • Going to the local gym in winter meant bundling up, driving in the dark despite it only being 5:30, and trudging through the slushy parking lot only to unwrap and traverse on a treadmill. It wasn’t an option to go running outside in the brink of freezing temperatures or in the dark dinnertime. In Sarasota, it’s possible to exercise outside year-round. Long summer days mean mornings and evenings invite strolls or park yoga, and the remaining seasons are pleasant enough 24 hours a day to venture a workout, be it from my front door or at the beach.
  • Walking around in a Packers cap or a Cubs jersey (I married a Chicago man), people stop and chat about the state, their stories, where they’re from, or the game. At minimum, a nod of understanding or a “me, too!” Up north, it’s just the norm, but here, it’s an announcement to boast proudly and usually ends with a story and a friend.
  • There is a novelty I cannot ignore in the fact that the road I take to drive my kids to their elementary school is the same road my high school mall job was on. If I decided to let them play hooky, we could keep driving up Highway 41, straight to the Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wisconsin, my old stomping grounds. It’s a small world that comes full-circle.
  • How does your garden grow? Up north, it’d bloom stunningly full of peonies, lilacs, and hostas, soft grass underfoot. But only for a few months. Then it’d be time to cut it all back, cover it from frost, and hope it pops back in seven months. In Sarasota, we don’t get a hard freeze, so our plants remain month after month, year after year. The only work we really need to do it keep it watered and mowed. This also means my green-thumbed daughter can grow goodies in the yard 365 days a year for her dining and gardening enjoyment.
  • My car used to have an emergency kit in the trunk containing blankets and an ice scraper. The fear was freezing for lack of preparation. My car now has emergency swimsuits and sunscreen. Because sometimes you truly have a swimming emergency and don’t want to miss out or get sunburned.
  • We can wear flip flops year-round. And unless I’m working out, I never wear socks.
  • My kids – and dog - have the opportunity to play outside every day of the year. No being stuck in the basement playing in the confined abode. No need to bundle them up in layer upon layer of coats and snowpants to venture beyond the back door, waiting for the inevitable active bladder. The yard is always waiting for them. Even in the summertime heat, they can build a fort and enjoy the shade or turn on the sprinklers, jump in the pool, or venture to the beach. The freedom of fresh air and infinite space is incredibly liberating and great for the soul – theirs and mine.
  • I never had to tend to a house in Wisconsin because I left after college, but I remember my parents fretting over frozen pipes, resettling foundations, slushy boots damaging flooring, and myriad other hassles. Here? I do sometimes get sandy floors after the beach, but it’s easily vacuumed off my tile floor.
  • There’s no denying the perfection of a Friday Fish Fry – fresh perch wins every time. But as a primarily pescatarian eater, I love the opportunity to explore variety after variety of fresh seafood, caught right off our coast, oftentimes by yours truly.
  • Holidays are a bit easier when you don’t have to hide your Halloween costume under a winter coat or search for Easter eggs in the snow and can hang Christmas lights at any time as there’s no fear of snow in the bushes. My kids have gotten bikes and rollerblades from Santa and rode them outside that day, not just in loops around an unfinished basement.

Do I miss home? Of course, there are things that bring up feelings of nostalgia, but we venture up regularly to jump in leaf piles, roll in the grass, and grab some fish fry. But for me, I cannot imagine spending my days and raising my kiddos anywhere else. My blood has thinned and I don’t mind one bit, don’t cha know.

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