- April 23, 2020
Greenbrook’s Matt and Lisa Buck had been waiting for an opportunity to connect with Lakewood Ranch residents.
The couple had moved to the area in June, and because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled many events in Lakewood Ranch, they hadn’t had a chance to see what the area had to offer.
“I heard this was a good community with a lot of activities,” Lisa Buck said.
Eventually, they heard about Ranch Nite Wednesdays, which was held Jan. 20 in person for the first time since March 2020 at the Sarasota Polo Club.
The Bucks grabbed sandwiches from Cigar City Smokers, which was one of five food trucks available, and sat at a table that was wiped down.
This year’s Ranch Nite Wednesdays will look a little different as people follow social distancing, and organizers encourage attendees to wear masks.
“We thought it was important to bring this back because our food truck people are hurting,” said Monaca Onstad, the director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch Communities. “They don’t have a lot of events to do, and this helps them. If we can do it in a safe way with the social distancing guidelines we put in place, we think we’ll be able to keep the event going.”
Onstad said live music won’t be available for now but could be a possibility in the future.
The event will run through April 28.
Onstad said the food trucks will give almost every visitor an option.
“I think the whole thing is just kind of the way we do hump day on the Ranch,” Onstad said. “You just come out, relax, and there’s so few places we can go to today and actually feel safe.”
Onstad said Lakewood Ranch Communities and Lakewood Ranch Community Activities have been looking at different events to start again and decided Ranch Nite Wednesdays was the easiest to bring back with health and safety guidelines in place.
The organizations will continue to look at what events could possibly be hosted again as the pandemic continues, Onstad said.
Lakewood Ranch Communities has announced one: the third annual Lakewood Ranch Community Campout on Feb. 20 and 21.
“We’re adapting and learning and trying to do what we do the best we can,” Onstad said. “I don’t think right now, until a vaccine is readily available and things are rolling that way, we’ll have large-scale events.”
For now, people will have Ranch Nite Wednesdays to enjoy food trucks, drinks and cornhole each week.
River Landings’ Falyn Ernst said Ranch Nite is a fun event to enjoy outside during the pandemic.
“It’s important for people’s morale,” Ernst said. “If you stay inside too much, people can get depressed. It’s good to be in fresh air and in nature. … I’m looking forward to many Wednesdays to break up the work week and a chance not to cook. That’s always a bonus.”
MVP Sports and Social’s cornhole league is a big draw for attendees.
Indigo’s Joanne Leger enjoyed the cornhole league so much last year that she jumped at the chance to be a part of this year’s league.
“We’ve all been cooped up since March, so it’s great to have a safe place to meet people and have fun,” Leger said.
Leger joined the league this year with her best friend of at least 20 years, Cynthia McGaha, who is from Apollo Beach.
McGaha said she looks forward to the camaraderie as they return to play every Wednesday.
MVP Sports and Social will host two sessions of the cornhole league during Ranch Nite. The first six-week session is already sold out, but spots are available for the second session. The second session runs from March 17 through April 28.