There’s a pastime for every passion in Lakewood Ranch.
What’s happening at the Ranch this spring? Wrong question…
What isn’t happening?
That’s the real question.
Lakewood Ranch offers hundreds of activities to engage mind, body and spirit. Soccer. Ukulele. Pickleball. Gardening. Painting. Photography. Birding. Book clubs. Camping. Basketball. Baseball. Bible study. Tennis. Walking. Yoga. Genealogy. Handicrafts. Running. Ballroom dancing. Wine. There’s even an Empty Nesters club. That’s just the start of a very long list. A host of homegrown clubs, leagues and groups will keep you busy long through summer.
Just ask Keith Pandeloglou. He’s the executive director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities (LWRCA), a nonprofit organization offering more than 60 activities and events for varying interests and skill levels.
“We launched this program in June 2020 in response to the pandemic,” Pandeloglou says. “We rapidly expanded and now offer 550 program sessions for more than 5,000 residents. I’m responsible for planning all the programs and working with community partners to staff them. I’m also in charge of budgeting, promotion and day-of setup and breakdown.”
For Pandeloglou, it’s a massive undertaking. Its success depends on the team captains, presidents and members of the respective clubs who keep their individual activities up and active: people like Larry Naddeo of the Lakewood Ranch Anglers Club, Andrea Rutsky of the Lakewood Ranch Running Club and Jessi and Chris McComas of MVP Sports and Social.
There’s a pastime for every passion in Lakewood Ranch and always a place to follow it. Here’s a smattering of just a few of the activities happening this spring:
There’s a League for That
MVP Sports and Social
When Jessi and Chris McComas moved to Lakewood Ranch from Tennessee in 2015, they noticed a void. “We realized that people had little opportunity to socialize on the playing field,” says Chris. “Jessi and I decided to change that.” How? They did what any young sports enthusiasts and entrepreneurs would do: They launched a kickball league with 72 players. It soon grew into MVP Sports and Social. The organization now boasts 1,400 members who flock to Lakewood Ranch from across the region.
“We want to bring people together in a laid-back atmosphere where they can mingle, make new memories and have fun,” says Chris, who also serves as Lakewood Ranch Community Activities’ parks program director. “Our business model is to keep it about fun and not about high-stress competition.”
The walk on the fun side includes indoor and outdoor volleyball, kickball, softball, bowling, golf, basketball, disc golf and cornhole. Most of these activities have a league of their own, with fundraising tournaments.
Chris explains that they recently created three divisions: The “Party” division welcomes people who are just learning the game or want a more relaxed experience. The “Lit” division is for more advanced players with decent abilities — but still learning. The “Fire” division is for current or former athletes with high-level skills who still seek the social dimension.
“In the end, it’s all about meeting new people, making friends and sharing life experiences,” says Chris. “No matter what division you’re in, you’re still in the same arena with everyone else at the same time. The diversity of age and skill sets and interests is what makes this work as well as it does. We stress the social side and not the competitive side. The main requirement? Be kind to each other and have fun.”
Jessi adds that several MVP members have met at an event and subsequently got married. “Our first marriage occurred when two single people joined our cornhole league. We paired them together, and the rest is history.”
For more information, contact Chris McComas at 304-654-0283 or [email protected] or visit mvpsportsandsocial.com.
Lakewood Ranch Anglers Club
For 16 years, the 60-plus members of the Lakewood Ranch Anglers Club — from amateur level to the more experienced — have gone fishing in the myriad waterways meandering through their neighborhoods. Lake Uihlein, the only natural body of water, is also the largest and fed by natural springs. What kind of fish do folks catch in these parts? Larry Naddeo, the club’s chairman, says it’s typically large-mouth bass, catfish and tilapia.
“Most of the lakes in Lakewood Ranch are public and fishable,” says Naddeo. “There’s endless opportunity to experience the joy of fishing in a responsible way.” Naddeo knows that joy full well. He’s been fishing since he was a lad — more than 70 years ago.
The Anglers gather for their hourlong Fishing Saturdays at 10 a.m. every third Saturday of the month at Lake Patton in James L. Patton Park. The club provides a rod and reel, tackle, structure and guidance.
Want to learn more about fishing? Naddeo suggests attending one of the free Learn to Fish seminars at Summerfield Park. Recently held in February, participants learn about casting, knot tying, tackle and environment — and even have a chance to win a rod and reel. The seminar is open to Lakewood Ranch residents ages 5 to 19. Another popular recent event is the Lakewood Ranch Fishing Tournament, held Feb. 26 at Lake Uihlein. The event is also open to Lakewood Ranch residents ages 5 to 19.
The Anglers also enjoy overnight trips to Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Keys, Canada and deep into the Gulf of Mexico waters.
What’s the most unusual fish an Angler has ever caught? According to Naddeo, “A 10-foot sailfish. That was truly the catch of a lifetime.”
For more information on the Lakewood Ranch Anglers Club, visit MyLWR.com/306/Anglers-Club or contact Larry Naddeo at 201-274-6899 or [email protected].
Finding Community Through Running
Lakewood Ranch Running Club
Is running in your blood? Is your idea of fun waking up before sunrise to join other early risers for a long-distance run? Want to tally up your miles for the Mileage Club each month and maybe win a prize? We’ve got the club for you!
Since its small beginnings in the late 1990s, the Lakewood Ranch Running Club has expanded to more than 80 members who join for the camaraderie and the competition. The club’s mainly for adults, but youth are welcome to join. Members range in age from 17 to 70 and above.
Oh, and you don’t have to be a track star to participate.
“So many people think they can’t run with us because they’re too slow or just starting,” says Andrea Rutsky, the club’s president. “But that’s not true at all. We have people in the club who have run-walked all the way to Boston Marathon qualifiers. There’s always someone who will match your pace.”
Rutsky first laced up her running shoes nine years ago when she turned 40. “I did it backwards,” she says. “Many people start running when they’re young and then shift to a gentler exercise, like yoga, after injuries. I had a serious yoga practice before I got into running. But I love being outdoors; my default is to be outside whether it’s hot, cold or rainy — and running is perfect for that.” Rutsky does most of her running on trails (not cement paths) in Lakewood Ranch, averaging about 15 miles a week. “I’d love to run every day, but I need to do a lot of cross-training, so I alternate with swimming, yoga, gym exercise and other body-strengthening and flexibility exercises.”
The club meets year-round for group runs at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6 a.m. on Saturdays, at various locations throughout Lakewood Ranch. There is a mileage party at the end of the year, and awards are given for 500, 1,000 and 2,000 miles.
“Lakewood Ranch is a super fast-growing town, so people are always moving in and looking to connect.” Rutsky says. “With our club, you’ll be spending hours running with these people and start making friends. There’s a pace and a distance for everyone. I think people surprise themselves by what they can do, especially with the support of a group like this.”
For more information, visit RunLWR.com or contact Andrea Rutsky at [email protected].
Get Your Green Thumb on At...
Gardeners Out East
Love gardening — or want to get started? Gardeners Out East promotes the beautification of gardens and offers educational programs about Florida gardening and advocates for environmental issues. According to member Nancy Schneider, a green thumb is not a membership requirement. “You don’t have to be a master gardener to join,” she says. “Just enjoy meeting people and be interested in gardening of any type.”
Upcoming events include:
- March 14: Pie Day and Indoor Palms: Presented by master gardener Amy Stripe, with “A Palm in your Hand” designing tips by Betty Call. Each member brings a whole pie to swap; new guests are welcome.
- April 11: Sunken Gardens Tour: Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg is one of the oldest roadside tourist attractions in the United States. Participants will also enjoy lunch and shopping at Mazzaro’s Italian Market.
- May 9: Season Finale: Participants bid the gardening season farewell with a delicious potluck luncheon. Guests are welcome. At Peace Presbyterian Church.
The club meets from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Peace Presbyterian Church, 12705 S.R. 64 Unit E., Bradenton. For more information, visit GardenersOutEast.com.
Looking for some heavy social action with a hearty dose of cornhole? Don’t miss Ranch Nites from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday evenings at Waterside Place through May 12. Enjoy live music from local artists, food and dessert trucks, a night market and an open bar hosted by Good Liquid Brewing & Scratch Kitchen. You’ll also get an opportunity to participate in the second-largest recreational cornhole league in the nation hosted by MVP Sports & Social.
1561 Lakefront Drive, Sarasota. Visit watersideplace.com/event-detail/ranch-nite-wednesdays for more information.
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