A look back at photos that gave us pause during a most unusual year.
Everything seemed so encouraging when we donned those silly-looking novelty glasses made with the numbers 20 20 and we rung in the new year.
Vacations were planned, Olympics were anticipated, high school graduation parties were beginning to come together.
Then we all learned what "pandemic" meant.
Still, though, 2020 wasn't all bad. There were plenty of things to celebrate along the way.
Here, then, is a sample of what transpired in the last 12 months.
9: Ringing in the new year
The city center became the Mirth Capital of the County on New Years Eve and early New Years Day as thousands came to watch the traditional Pineapple Drop. Before, during and after, there were plenty of things to see, ride upon, eat and drink -- some at the same time, though that was probably not a good idea.
Normally seen in Disney adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen books, mermaids appeared live and in person at the Bazaar at Apricot and Lime. Guests at the event took photos and watched enthralled as they swam.
16: New to the circle
The Circus Ring of Fame Foundation took the wraps off four new plaques in St. Armands Circle, emblematic of the induction of the elite group's newest members. Inducted to the group were: The King Charles Troupe, Guy Laliberte, Los Quiros High Wire Artistry and the Carrillo Brothers High Wire Duo. It was the 33rd year of the ceremony.
23: Marching to remember
The annual MLK Unity Walk and Celebration brought families and friends out on a cool January morning to remember the legacy of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to look into the future of what the world might someday be. For the 40th time, the procession led from the Robert L. Taylor Community Center to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
30: A place to call home
With a 3-2 vote, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance that would allow members of the Pinecraft community to have one occupied recreational vehicle attached to their single-family home. The occupied RV is only allowed from Dec. 1 through March 31 annually.
30: Sciencey circus or circusey science?
Hundreds of fifth graders made the trip to the Circus Arts Conservatory to learn a little something about science through the lens of the circus. Physics, math and more play a crucial role in many circus acts, the kids learned.
6: It's a no
City Commissioners voted in favor of advancing a comprehensive plan amendment to change the future land use designation of Bath & Racquet Club, at 2170 Robinhood St. But because such an amendment requires a supermajority, the proposal failed and rendered a proposed redevelopment plan unbuildable. After the vote, commissioners on both sides were critical of the city policies that led to a four-hour hearing and said they were interested in exploring ways to fix a system they aren’t satisfied with.
6: Off and digging
Work began on The Bay's first real project, the Mangrove Bayou Walkway. The half-mile rubberized path features native landscaping. The project was made possible by the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation.
6: On the run
More than 3,000 athletes took part in the annual Sarasota Music Half Marathon and Rockin 10K on the streets of the bayfront, some neighborhoods south of downtown and over the bridge to St. Armands and back.
20: They said "I do" again
Hundreds of couples gathered on the sand of Siesta Key to renew their love for each other at a ceremony that featured a real judge who delivered words of vow-renewal. Geraldine and Fred Frank, at 62 years, were the longest-wed couple at the ceremony.
5: COVID-19 rears its ugly head
One of the first examples of life changing because of the gathering COVD-19 pandemic was the closing of public-gathering places, such as restaurants.
12: Saying good bye
Friends and family of Charles and Margery Barancik gathered to celebrate their lives and their generosity. The philanthropic couple who lived on Longboat Key were killed in a traffic crash in December 2019. Those who came heard about the love the couple had for their community and the joy with which they gave to help improve it. "My father was far happier in his final giving years than I've ever seen him before,'' Steve Barancik said.
9: No one is flying
With lockdowns in place and COVID-19 spread on the rise, travel of all sorts was hit hard -- but no segment more so than air travel. Passenger traffic through Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport fell off about 97% in the early days of the pandemic, giving airport managers an opportunity to do parking lot maintenance.
9: Helping out
Volunteers around the area quickly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by using their talents to create masks and face shields while these products for regular consumers were hard to find. The Suncoast Science Center swung into action sewing cloth masks, often with donated materials. On the high tech front, workers used 3-D printing to produce components for transparent face shields.
23: Two-wheeled freedom
Gyms were closed, bars were closed, exercise classes were shut down. So out rolled the dusty bikes that had been sitting in the garage for years. Cycling surged during the lockdowns as a great way for some exercise while still staying away from people. Bike shops saw a jump in business, not only for people buying but for people seeking tuneups and repairs for two-wheeled machines that hadn't seen daylight since the Obama administration.
23: Pausing to say thanks
Firefighters, police officers, sheriff's deputies, troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol and other first responders joined together to gather outside Sarasota Memorial Hospital to pay tribute to the medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients inside.
30: Connecting with their students
High school teachers, striving to connect with their soon-to-be-graduating seniors, organized drive-by celebrations after weeks of remote learning. At Sarasota High, on a day seniors were scheduled to come to campus to pick up caps and gowns, faculty and staff cheered and honored their students with signs and well wishes.
7: It's a start
In an industry that often operates on razor-thin margins, new rules for restaurants that allowed 25% capacity indoors weren't terribly confidence inspiring. But plenty of locations took advantage of relaxed rules that allowed expanded outdoor seating -- as long as patrons were six feet apart. Sidewalk cafes opened along Main Street and in some cases, traffic was halted allowing for tables in the street. "Hopefully, it will continue to open up, and it won't go backward,'' one restaurant owner said.
21: An airborne honor
All around the country, military flyovers became commonplace as morale boosters. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flew over big cities. Here in Sarasota, a KC-135 tanker from MacDill Air Force Base flew low over the city, banking and turning over Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
4: Speaking out
Following the death of George Floyd, street protests took place in Sarasota. In many cases, police joined with protesters who were seeking and end to racial discrimination and reforms to the way law enforcement conducts itself.
18: Making a point
Brightly colored cars, trucks and even a bicycle or two drove down Main Street in support of Project Pride SRQ's parade, coinciding with Pride Month. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the parade was live streamed and crowds were encouraged to stay home to watch instead of gathering along the sidewalks.
18: Thrills for us
Nik Wallenda, fresh off a stroll on the high wire across a volcano in Central America, brought something a little less perilous to Benderson Park in the form of his Daredevil Rally, a drive-in thrill show. Wallenda himself performed along with a slate of other circus and other acts.
23: Making memories
Finally, after months of uncertainty, high school seniors were given their due, participating in graduation ceremonies to culminate what was a very unusual final year.
: "This statue is ours"
Veterans, well-wishers and other supporters of the bayfront "Unconditional Surrender" statue gathered in its shadow to help local leaders understand their support for the iconic landmark. As part of planning for road construction to come in 2021, leaders began discussing not only a potential temporary home for the statue but also its overall place in the community. Fueled by public support, Sarasota city leaders later in the year decided to move it to a new, permanent location not far away to make way for the traffic circle to come.
27: Back to school
Students streamed back to school, though delayed, and encountered a whole new look to their familiar hallways and classrooms. Transparent screens were set up on desks. Signs directing the flow of traffic were placed in public areas. Some students remained home while others came back to school. Teachers coped with so-called concurrent learning, in which some of their students watched classroom activities virtually and some were there in person. It was the first time students and teachers were in the same room since spring break of the previous academic year.
10: Saying farewell
Artist Shawn McLoughlin's work is known around Siesta Key. When he learned he had Stage 3 pancreatic cancer in June, he decided it was time to begin selling the dozens of pieces of art he had in his studio. He cataloged more than 150 pieces, hand wrote notes about many of them and uploaded them to his website for sale. McLoughlin said he was blown away by the response. "I was just so pleased to see my work go to a good home.''
Heavy machinery and signs began appearing along the route of the Legacy Trail extension, signaling progress on the project that ultimately will lead to an unbroken cycling and foot path from Downtown Sarasota to Venice. Work is expected to be completed in 2022, but the first new segment — a standalone section between Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street — is expected to wrap up in spring 2021.
24: Art with a message
Muralists helped illustrate some of Sarasota's civil rights history with murals at the Lido Pavilion. When work is done on the pavilion in early 2021, the murals will help explain to visitors about the wade-in protests at the beach in the 1950s and 1960s in which Black residents worked to desegregate the city's beach.
1: Going for the gold
Southside Elementary School students and families surrounded themselves with gold in support of the school's Going for Gold fundraiser to benefit the Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Research. Benjamin was a third-grader at the school when he died of leukemia in 2017. The fundraiser also honors Avery Rann, a first-grade student at the school who died of brain cancer the same year. Students dressed in gold. The campaign has raised more than $770,000 in its four years.
22: Dating in a pandemic
Who says the Observer isn't looking out for the young folks? Black Tie reporter Harry Sayer delivered to us a story in October that laid out all the options for safely dating in a pandemic. And to safely demonstrate, who better to serve the cause than a cardboard cutout of teen heartthrob Zac Efron. Ladies (and gentlemen), there is absolutely no risk of catching a virus from a cardboard cutout — provided he's been properly wiped down.
5: Republicans celebrate
Sarasota went big for Republican candidates once again, convincingly supporting President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and others down the GOP ticket. Many of the winners celebrated on election night with a party at Robarts Arena.
With a nod to COVID-19 protocols, families and other folks joined in on the Halloween fun at St. Armands Circle and Siesta Key. Candy and costumes were as prevalent as ever, though social distancing was the norm.
25: COVID-19 still a concern
With autumn well underway, local health leaders became concerned again over levels of COVID-19 not seen since the summer weeks following a general reopening of the state. New cases began climbing in October and steepened in November. Positivity rates also climbed with testing. Health officials said they were concerned but had learned a lot over the preceding months.
10: A place for a museum
Gulf Coast Maritime Museum officials are targeting acreage at the Bobby Jones Golf Course site for maritime history museum, saying the area is centrally located and a hub for maritime activity in a city that prides itself on its cultural amenities. City staff recommended against the idea of using land at Bobby Jones, instead suggesting City Island. The museum turned away that suggestion, not wanting to store its historic resources in a storm-vulnerable location.
Reporting and staff photography by David Conway, Brynn Mechem, Harry Sayer, Eric Garwood and Whitney Elfstrom.
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