Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Things I Love About Lakeland, Florida

I got an email from a high school friend yesterday. We both were born and raised in Ocala. She lives in Chatanooga, Tenn. now. About my moving to Lakeland nearly nine years ago, she said, "So you moved from one small town to another. How is it?"

My first thought was a rather indignant "Lakeland is not small! It's bigger than Ocala, for crying out loud!"
Lakeland has nearly 90,000 residents. Ocala's population is about 52,000. When I think of small towns, I think of Lake Alfred, population 4,500. Or Williston, population 2,300.

But then I thought, well she does live in Chatanooga, population 156,000.
So, for my old friend Ashley, who I've known since fifth grade, and for all you Lakeland residents who might not always think about what makes our city so great, I'm going to answer Ashley's question, "How is it?"

It's home. It's the only place I've ever lived besides Ocala that I have felt comfortable calling home.

I love Lakeland's Downtown area, where I meet my friends at Black & Brew for coffee at least once a week. I enjoy going to the First Friday events each month, grabbing a bite to eat Downtown and strolling around to listen to the saxaphonists, acoustic guitarists, bluegrass and folk musicians staged along the streets. Then there's Palace Pizza, my favorite place to grab a slice.
I love Brooke Pottery, where my husband indulges me in strolling through the shop to look at all the pretty things, and where I pause to look that those beautifully lit hanging stars in the window that would serve no good purpose in my house, but I love them anyway.
I never tire of Munn Park and the way it is decorated during the holidays with brightly lit arches covering the sidewalks and lots of decorations that attract parents of young children by the thousands. I love to watch those children run and play and squeal with delight as they stand in front of the train decoration and get their pictures taken.
I marvel at how the city and local nonprofit organizations plan so many great events in Munn Park. There are arts and crafts festivals, home and garden shows and the Junior Women's Club of Lakeland's annual Family Fest to name a few. Just down the street from Munn Park is the Farmer's Market, open for business every Saturday.

I love Lake Mirror and all the improvements the city has made to that area in the past several years. Purchasing that crappy old motel that once sat across from Texas Cattle Company (home of the free birthday steak) was a beautiful move. Rerouting traffic to be able to eventually create a pedestrian area around the entire lake was a great idea and I'm excited to see the finished product.

Music on the Promenade at Lake Mirror is something I always look forward to. The diversity in music is awesome, and the amphitheater is the perfect place to bring blankets, chairs and a picnic basket full of wine and cheese to enjoy while listening to the music.
Hollis Garden. One could write a book on its beauty.
I love the view of Lake Mirror from the top of the downtown parking garage, especially during the holidays, when the red bell lanterns adorn the street lamps.

Heading east out of Downtown, I love to watch the Jenkins Lincoln Mercury Sputnik sign in action. I was able to write an article for The Ledger and Lakeland Magazine on the sign's renovation earlier this year, and I got to speak to the man who created the sign. Sputnik truly is a piece of Lakeland history, and seeing it spin and twirl in the night sky is quite a site.

So Ashley, I hope this answers your question.

1 comment:

Lorrie said...

This comment came to me this morning:

Thanks for reminding me that Lakeland is a great town. I've been here officially since '93 - after graduating from Southeastern (College) University. Before that Ocala was home. I went to Fort King Middle & am a 1988 Vanguard grad. I still love going "home" to Ocala to see my parents, but Lakeland is where I met my husband, secured a job I love and a church I love, and had my son. Roots have been established and Lakeland is now our home.

Again, just wanted to thank you for a great article.

Tammy McDaniel Stanley