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Wakefield Class of 1960
Sarasota Spring Break 2009

Spring 2009's mini-Reunion in Fla; and the reprise planned for 2010

A beautiful time of year in a beautiful area

On April 9-12, a convivial group of Warriors converged on Sarasota, for a break from the routine, and an enjoyable long-weekend mini-vacation on the gulf coast of Florida.  The locale which John Ringling selected in the early 20th century as a great over-wintering spot for his circus, enjoys springtime weather that is especially outstanding.  John Ringling's vision of a beautiful and interesting Sarasota lives on in the city today, with an abundance of entertaining and inspiring things to see and do.  The Warriors had a great time, one and all - so much so that it's going to happen again next year.  Mark your calendar for April 1-4, 2010.

A lot of space has been devoted to Sarasota 2009 in these pages, perhaps to the point of looking like a chamber of commerce press release.  The reason for so much elaboration is that we want you to be fully aware of what a great getaway Sarasota 2010 will be next spring.  Don't miss it!  The surface was just scratched the first time around.  Natural beauty, beautiful weather, proximity to water, and so many things to see that will inspire you as to what individual and collective vision, initiative, and effort can bring about.  You know you could use a relaxing get-away in early April, to put you in the proper, laid-back frame of mind for wrapping up your tax return.  So join a group of Warriors for Sarasota 2010, which is virtually certain to substantially eclipse Sarasota 2009 in attendance.  Reserve your spot now!  There are visions of taking over the entire Marina Jack II this time around, in which case once the seats are gone, they're gone.  You wouldn't want to have to be towed along in some little scow, while everybody else is enjoying Marina Jack II.  Get on board early.  Contact Ken Scruggs.  Use the top-of-page Contact Us menu.

Although a large group of Sarasota photos is included here, there are a lot more that have not yet been sent in, and so it's likely that there will be even more photos of the 2009 Sarasota spring-break added at a future update of these pages.

Mini-Reunion Central

A beautiful venue

The spring-break Warriors' base of operations was a pleasant, centrally-located hotel with an associated marina.  All Warrior rooms were on the water side, so there were nice views 24/7.

Thursday afternoon/evening

Early bird special

After spending some time relaxing and getting acquainted/reacquainted in the comfortable hospitality suite, Thursday's early birds enjoyed the special treat of a great dinner together at Capt Brian's Seafood Market and Restaurant.  With dozens and dozens of menu options utilizing the Market's right-off-the-boat (or plane) bounty, nobody got anything less than the freshest renditions of their preferred choices.  This was a nice prelude to the great eating that was to come the rest of the week-end. 


Multiple choice sightseeing

From a wide variety of sightseeing possibilities, groups of Warriors zeroed in on a couple of choices for the initial forays.   One group decided on the Ringling Estate Compound; another group decided on the South Florida Museum (and Parker Manatee Aquarium).

Ringling Estate Compound

John Ringling named his 1925 showplace mansion "Ca d'Zan" (Venetian for "House of John" - its design having been influenced by various Venetian Gothic palaces that he and his wife had encountered in their travels in Italy).   The 36,000 sq ft, 56-room mansion - with style that is a reflection of the flamboyance and exuberance of its owner - is open to the public (on the main floor), and draws large and admiring crowds of visitors.  Once a visitor has done a little looking around, there can be no doubt that the owner was seriously attached to the circus - vestiges can be found everywhere.  A $15 million restoration and conservation project was completed in 2002.  As in the roaring 20's, the estate is today a hub of activity - Ca d'Zan regularly hosts events all year round that enable the community to enjoy the magnificent ambiance of this place.

In addition to the mansion itself, there are a number of other things to see on the grounds of the estate, foremost among them the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art.  Construction was started on this magnificent museum just after Ca d'Zan was built, but had to be curtailed due to collapsing financial and real estate markets.  Despite the financial challenge, Ringling ultimately completed the art museum as a tribute to his wife, whom he loved dearly, and who had died in 1929.  The museum opened in late 1931, with a huge collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from around the world.  The collection currently has in excess of 10,000 items, the most celebrated of which are 16th, 17th, and 18th century European paintings, and in particular a world-renowned collection of Rubens paintings.  A $76 million expansion and renovation of this museum was completed in 2007, which added considerable new space, and rectified a somewhat neglected condition of the original building.  Unfortunately, time constraints precluded the visiting Warriors from exploring and enjoying the art and architecture this museum.  It will be on the agenda in April 2010 for sure.

Also on the estate grounds is the Circus Museum.  It houses extensive exhibits pertaining to circuses and to famous acts.  And, there are many decorative rolling cages, calliopes, floats, etc that were used in the parades through the towns near where the traveling circus would set up.  The museum also has the custom Pullman railroad car that accommodated the Ringlings in their travels.  One of the most amazing exhibits is the world's largest miniature/model circus.  It represents a typical large traveling circus of the 1920s and 30s.  This model occupies 3800 sq ft (how big is your house?), and has been created over a period of 50 years by primarily one man, Howard Tibbals.  Talk about a hobby that got out of control! And he is still working at it!

"Snooty" and the Parker Manatee Aquarium/South Florida Museum

Manatees are kind of a cause celebre in the Bradenton/Sarasota area, and a number of Warriors were interested in finding out what was behind it all.  For starters, the manatee aquarium's location, Manatee County, may be in danger of its namesake becoming extinct.  The manatee population of Florida is currently estimated to be between 1,000 and 3,000.  Manatees are classified as "endangered" at the federal level, but in Florida (their primary habitat in the U.S.) they were reclassified as "threatened" in 2006.  Either way, manatees don't seem to be doing too well.  The biggest threat to these slow, docile, and curious herbivores is propeller wounds or blunt force trauma from boats colliding with them; and such manmade injuries are thought to account for as many as 40% of the manatee deaths each year.  The Parker Aquarium is instrumental in manatee research, and in nursing injured manatees back to health.  The aquarium's "Snooty," at age 61, is the oldest manatee in captivity.

The South Florida Museum (which houses the manatee aquarium) has exhibits which explain and depict life in the region from prehistoric times to the present.  Displays include anthropological artifacts, paleontological specimens, objects of cultural interest, dioramas and dramatic exhibits.

Friday Evening

St. Armands Circle

A happening location

If it's Friday evening, and you're looking for a restaurant in Sarasota, St. Armands Circle is a good place to look.  It has nearly twenty to choose from, and in close enough proximity that if you stand in the center of the circle's green, you can see all of them.  Although they draw well-deserved crowds, as a display of Warrior bravery, our spring-breakers ventured out with no reservations.  The various scouting parties that went in search of food soon learned that bravery is not always the best trait to rely on under such circumstances.  But with skillful diplomacy and measured allusions to "thunderclubs and tomahawks", all Warriors were ultimately able to negotiate food and drink.  Hemmingway's was one of several St Armands restaurants that eventually accommodated spring-break Warriors.

After eating, the Warriors became part of the street scene consisting of hundreds of others who had dined, along with hundreds who had merely showed up on St. Armands to be a part of the evening pedestrian-ambiance.  Almost everything on St. Armands is open late, and those strolling around can find just about anything in the small shops and boutiques - ice cream, Italian ice, chocolate, pastries, coffee, tea, spices, tobacconist, T-shirts, hoodies, fashions, creature comforts for pets, collectables, art, treasures, and trinkets of all kinds.  As it was throughout the week-end, the weather was perfect for outdoor strolling.

Hospitality Suite at hotel

Winding down after St. Armands

To share the events of the day and evening, the spring-break Warriors reconvened at the hotel's hospitality suite, and wound down for another several hours.  As usual, the hospitality suite was well-supplied with beverages and munchies, along with considerable Wakefield memorabilia to enjoy.  But of course the best part was just enjoying classmates, and trading stories and laughs.


Independent studies

Rather than substantial group efforts, Saturday's ventures resolved into very small group explorations to satisfy the wide variety of interests represented in the group.  Here are photos from several of the ventures.

Anna Maria Island

No boardwalk, no shops, just miles of beach.

Some fresh air and exercise-walking was a choice of some Warriors.  The southern end of Anna Maria Island is so narrow that there just isn't any room for development.  It's just you and the beach and some sun bathers for about 4 miles - a great place for taking your walk while you're away from your usual asphalt trail.

More of the South Florida Museum (and Parker Manatee Aquarium).

Snooty's animal magnetism beckons

The Friday experience with 61-year-old Snooty was so enchanting that he received another visit by Warriors on Saturday.  Some old-timers just never lose their knack for attracting females - must be the gregarious personality and docile manner.

Sarasota Classic Car Museum

Amazing, diverse automobile collection

This museum is a really entertaining find for people that love cars.  This 60,000 sq ft museum typically has about 100 cars on display, and some of these rotate via exchanges with other museums, so there is something "new" on a regular basis.  Visitors are shown through by a tour guide that knows the tiniest details, and dozens of stories, about each and every car.  Even people that don't have any particular affection for antique cars will get a lot of entertainment from all the interesting stories.  Here are pictures pertaining to two examples from the museum's collection.

Saturday Evening

Sarasota Bayfront and the Marina Jack II

Another happening location

Arriving a little in advance of the date with Marina Jack II afforded Warriors an opportunity to get a hint of some of the nice features of the Bayfront area.  The Marina Jack shoreside restaurant, and the Marina Jack II floating restaurant operate here.  A great place to stroll is the sidewalks alongside the water, and the marina ambiance is everywhere along the waterfront, with beautiful boats as far as the eye can see.  This bayfront area connects via walks and trails to the large Sarasota Island Park and Marina, a half-mile-long peninsula that hooks way out into the water - beyond where the Marina Jack II ties up. The "island" park has miles of trails, and lots of entertaining things along the way.  (You can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and jet skis; you can have something to eat and drink, at O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill; you can admire unique sculptures and fountains; or you can just sit down on a bench or a swing, and watch the world go by.)

Hospitality Suite at hotel

Winding down after Marina Jack II

The hospitality suite at the hotel once again permitted an opportunity for Warriors to spend time together in more casual atmosphere, with less-structured seating arrangements, as compared with those of the evening out.  There were some new faces and new stories because some of the Florida-resident Warriors, who could not join in for the whole week-end, were able to carve out time for the Marina Jack II, and some time in the hospitality suite afterward. After a day of really nice experiences, once again the great topper was long overdue conversations with classmates from long ago.


Warriors go their separate ways

After breakfast, some were heading right out to the airport, some were hitting the road to see friends/relatives in other Florida cities, and some had a little more slack in their schedule, which allowed for a little more time to enjoy the hospitality suite.

Closing ceremonies and good-byes in the hospitality suite

The strawberry ritual

The closing down of the hospitality suite was marked with some sort of mysterious strawberry ritual which nobody is talking about.  Guess you just had to be there.

Don't miss Sarasota in the spring of 2010.  Newcomers may want to shape their visit along the lines of the 2009 adventures.  Returning Warriors will have missed some things in 2009 that they can pick up in 2010; and lots of totally new experiences will be undertaken that will appeal to both the veterans and the newcomers.  Just get yourself down to Sarasota and enjoy a really nice long week-end, April 1-4, 2010.  Get in touch with Ken Scruggs.  Use Contact Us in the top-of-page menu.


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