There we were, tooling along just fine a couple years ago. A round of golf here, a bike ride there, a little barbecue now and then and a nice cigar.
Then, whammo, we’re all wearing masks and checking drive times on Google maps to a place called Micco where a Publix store had a single COVID-19 shot appointment open at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
Since then, we’ve dodged hurricanes, survived elections and worked like heck to get back to where we were when all this craziness started.
It wasn’t easy, but we’re here to tell you, we seem to have made it. In looking back through the thousands of photos our reporters made in 2022, we were hard-pressed to notice much of a difference as compared to normal. No masks, no clear plastic barriers and, with the exception of a photo we shot in the first days of January, no signs of social distancing or anything.
Just Sarasotans doing Sarasota things.
So, as 2022 fades into a typically glorious Siesta Key or Lido Key sunset, we look ahead to even more normality in 2023.
Happy New Year!
Thousands of Sarasota crammed Main Street on New Years Eve for the annual Downtown Sarasota Block Party and Pineapple Drop. Families had a number of fun activities to enjoy including carnival attractions, rock climbing, mechanical bull riding, live music and more.
We met Kristopher Paul a month earlier in the Sarasota Downtown Holiday Parade. He wasn’t hard to spot, with kids swarming all over the costumed Captain America. He loves performance and theater and made his costume on his own, showing it off at conventions, parades and other public gatherings. "My cosplay (work) has kept growing and growing,” Paul said.
Building a legacy
Miles were added to the Legacy Trail in 2022, along with new places to access the rails-to-trails feature that now extends from Fruitville Road to Venice. In addition to adding a level of pure joy for runners, walkers, and recreational cyclists, the pathway connects neighborhoods with downtown with the goal of one day perhaps eliminating some motorized traffic.
The Sarasota-Manatee legislative delegation deadlocked on a vote to move forward with a proposal that could have led to a vote on incorporation for the Siesta Key Community. The 3-3 vote effectively killed any chance the local bill would receive consideration from the full state legislature. Supporters of the proposal said it would give residents more say in how their community is run. Legislators who voted no said the move was based on dubious assumptions and would lead to another layer of government.
Good, clean fun
Recreational use of soap was on full display at the Bazaar on Apricot and Lime when buddle artist Blaise Ryndes arrived with his acclaimed Sphere Bubble Show. Between massive bubbles big enough to envelope a child to tiny ones that prompted squeals of glee, there was plenty going on to entertain. Oh, and moms and dads had the chance to sample boba tea, otherwise known as bubble tea.
Park remains as it is
City Commissioners by a vote of 4-1, rejected a proposal to sell a strip of land adjacent to Paul Thorpe Park to a New York real estate company for $275,000 in what had been billed as a settlement to a long-running legal dispute with the city.
A creative city
City leaders in 2023 will likely begin consideration of a public art master plan designed to create a sustainable source of fundraising and the creation of an “independent community organization whose sole purpose is to support public art in collaboration with the city of Sarasota."
Under the big top
Circus luminaries and their fans headed under the big top for the annual Ring of Fame ceremonies for the first time, moving from its previous location on St. Armands Circle. They saw performances, they heard heartfelt words from honorees and celebrated a big, circus-style finale complete with confetti. "Life is being on stage, life is performing in front of a live audience, life is under a big top, in a ring, doing what I was made to do," honoree Nik Wallenda said. "That's life. I think we as performers often take our lives for granted. We take it for granted how blessed we are, to be able to do what we love. Something we are passionate about."
A lot to talk about
What started as an unsolicited offer to buy and redevelop a city-owned parking lot on St. Armands Key came to a close with a Sarasota City Commission vote to take no further steps on the proposal. The 4-1 vote doesn’t mean a developer couldn’t return with a revised offer for the 1.98 acre lot on Fillmore Drive. “The time will come when it’s quite doable," City attorney Robert Fournier said, adding now was not the time.
Landmark no more
The former home of Capt. Ralph Styles, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, was demolished on Siesta Key, though the nightly flag ceremony there continues. The flag ceremony began as a symbol of appreciation for the armed forces. Ralph found a bugler and a retired Army drummer who also lived on Siesta Key, both of whom joined in the tradition. The ceremony was halted after Ralph's death in 2009 but was restarted near Beach Access 2 in 2017.
I do all over again
Couples returned to the beach after the popular vow-renewal ceremony took a COVID-19 break the year before. Many participants have been at the ceremony for years and happily ended the ceremony reciting their vows and embracing one another as the sun set.
The sound of Thunder
The weekend Thunder by the Bay festival saw hundreds of motorcyclists and enthusiasts turning out to the Sarasota County fairgrounds. Proceeds from the event benefited Suncoast Charities for Children, which provides grants to nonprofits helping children and adults with special needs.
If all goes as envisioned on land just west of Celery Fields, snowbirds might one day be the only migratory creatures unable to find the line between the already-established nature sanctuary and a new project to “re-wild” a trio of adjacent county-owned parcels. That’s the goal of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Sarasota Audubon and county leaders in reimagining the future of the so-called Quads, a collection of properties within sight of Interstate 75.
Get on the bus, Gus
The city’s Bay Runner trolley clanged its bell and went into service shuttling tourists and residents between downtown and Lido Key. The free service, launched for at least three years and financed by a Florida Department of Transportation grant and the city’s economic development fund, subsequently won mobility innovation awards.
Fore the future
City leaders and project stakeholders took some time on a perfect-for-golf morning to celebrate what was to come at Bobby Jones Golf Course with a groundbreaking on an ambitious remake of the facility which opened nearly 100 years ago. Redesigned back to the original layout, with modern amenities, the new 18-hole course is expected to open in mid-2023. An adjacent nature park will occupy the acreage no longer devoted to golf.
Thinking of others
The RADD for Ukraine block party and supply drive brought hundreds of people to the Rosemary District for an evening of music and goodwill. Visitors were able to paint messages of support onto the walls of an art gallery while others listened to music outside.
Trying to get ahead
City leaders grappled with the problem of a series of St. Armands Circle statues that are missing appendages because of accidents, tomfoolery or outright vandalism. Though not part of the city’s public art program, the various statues have a following in the shopping district.
Easter around the city
Church service, tulips, bunnies and colorful eggs were found in equal parts around Sarasota.
Their own place
Work got under way on the Sarasota County home for the District 12 Medical Examiner’s office, a public-private partnership approved in 2021 and expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2023.
A new chief
Rex Troche took the oath of office as Sarasota’s 13th police chief. With his wife, Kelly, holding a Spanish-language Bible and his parents and children watching from the front row, Troche, 50, repeated the oath delivered by Deputy City Manager Pat Robinson. Following the last phrase, the room erupted in a standing ovation and loud applause.
More than 160 kids from elementary school through high school and their families either raced radio controlled creations as Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab 7th Annual Remote Control Custom Car Open or they were cheering on the 60 teams from 18 schools.
Father Fausto steps aside
The Rev. Fausto Stampiglia, the defining face of St. Martha Catholic Church for more than 30 years, retired at age 86, saying he feels his works and actions have been the simple result of living a life of meaning. "Being a priest is living a life of joy," Stampiglia said.
Indoors or out, public or private, high schools celebrated graduation in grand style from Robarts Arena, to Sarasota High’s football stadium, to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!
In the big picture, a four-way stop in the middle of a community might not seem like such a big deal, but County Commissioners in May voted to do just that in Siesta Key, against the wishes of an advisory board and with the wishes of residents. The two extra signs followed quickly at Ocean Boulevard and Avenida Milano.
Dog days of summer
The Bazaar on Apricot and Lime put on a day for the dogs during its debut Dog Days of Summer costume contest. More than 20 excited dog owners brought their canines of all shapes and sizes to the event, each dressed up in a colorful and cute design.
Taking to the skies
Members of Sarasota RC Squadron are at their base most every day at Rothenbach Park, either flying a variety of aircraft or teaching others to do so.
Happy birthday, America!
Sarasota residents and visitors alike dodged rainy weather for a Fourth of July celebration at Bayfront Park. Guests marveled at the show with many taking out their phones to record the many lights. Everyone cheered when the big finale came and the night's entertainment drew to a close.
City officials and members of DreamLarge aimed to teach and celebrate the history of baseball’s Buck O’Neil to the public with a 44-foot-high mural on the Rosemary Square building in the Rosemary District. Attendees heard from city and cultural figures alike that included Newtown native Walter Gilbert, City Manager Marlon Brown, and Orioles’ Hall of Fame member and ambassador Brian Roberts. Many spoke to who O'Neil was and the impact he had on the game of baseball.
First day of school
Moms, dads and kids woke up early and began the ritual of school for the 2022-23 academic year.
Come sail away
Around 200 sailors and families made the journey to Ken Thompson Park for the 74th annual Labor Day Regatta. The annual race brings hundreds of sailors of various ages to Sarasota's shores for a day of sailing races. Families arrived early Saturday morning to set up their boats and prepare for the activities to come.
Airing their grievances
A dispute between the city of Sarasota and the leaders of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport over a developer’s plan to build apartments across University Parkway from the main runway at the site of the former Sarasota Kennel Club is now a legal matter. City leaders said approval of Aventon Sarasota, a 372-unit complex, is crucial to the area’s housing situation. Airport leaders say the move violates an agreement between the two designed to discourage residential development of land immediately adjacent to the corridor taken by arriving and departing aircraft.
Digging in for Ian
With a sudden shift in the forecast, Sarasota residents scrambled to an early-morning sandbag filling site at Ed Smith Stadium in preparation for Hurricane Ian, which the day before had looked like it would strike north of the area. In the end, though, structural damage in northern Sarasota County was negligible, though trees and limbs fell and power outages were widespread. Schools closed for days and reopened first in the north, then days later to the south, where damage and flooding were far worse.
First, City Commissioners rejected a recommendation from the Historic Preservation Board, paving the way for the demolition of the nearly century-old Palm Apartments building and a contemporary office building next door on Second Street. Then developer M2RE Partners acquired the vacant lot next door to propose an 18-unit condominium and 109-room hotel mixed-use development steps away from Tamiami Trail. The project remains under consideration.
Phase 1 of The Bay park opened along the shores of Sarasota Bay with 10 days of events meant to showcase all the signature destination has to offer. There was music, yoga, kayaking and other special events. Meanwhile, planning and work toward Phase 2 and beyond is underway.
A new place to play
County leaders kicked off the first steps leading to a revamped 17th Street Park, with an ultimate goal of providing a new venue for local kids and adults to compete in a variety of sports and attracting out of town teams for tournaments. Expansion plans include new acreage for artificial turf multi-purpose fields. A new softball complex also is part of the plan in the $5.5 million endeavor.
Meet the new mayor
Following elections that delivered a newcomer to City Commission and an incumbent to a second term, Kyle Battie was chosen by his peers to be mayor for the remainder of 2022 and most of 2023. Battie, most recently vice mayor, accepted congratulations from outgoing Mayor Erik Arroyo.
A tree grows in Sarasota
City crews worked throughout November to finalize elements of the Ringling Trail, a remade stretch of Ringling Boulevard designed for a safer co-existence between cyclists and motor-vehicle operators. One of the last steps was the planting of a series of traffic islands meant to help buffer the bike lanes.
Though plenty of people opposed it for their own reasons, the St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular kicked off for a seasonal run through New Years. The brainchild of restaurant owner Tom Leonard, the event includes a train, skating, music and plenty of photo opportunities.
60 feet of seasonal joy now stands in St. Armands Circle, though it did need a little fixing up after Tropical Storm Nicole. The tree replaces one that had become so degraded that city and circle officials had trouble finding anyone to assemble it this year.