Those were the days

When the Greatest Show on Earth returned to its former winter quarters in Venice (1960-1992), the animals would be unloaded at the train depot or from a siding near the old arena and paraded to the arena.

After months in hibernation, many of my friends and neighbors are developing wanderlust.

Actually there may be less here than other parts of the country. On Facebook, I see people talking about cruises they have booked to Tahiti and other far-off places in November and December and worrying about whether the ship will sail.

If it does sail, will they even be able to get there? Given the growing numbers of cases of coronavirus, why are they even thinking of such a trip?

Pharmaceutical companies are working around the clock to find vaccines as well as COVID-19 tests that can determine within minutes if one is sick.

There already is a test in Germany that yields results in three to four hours. It is being used at that country’s major airports as an option for people entering the country. If one takes and passes the test, the 14-day quarantine period can be skipped. At this point, that is mainly for Germans heading home.

As the virus has traveled the world, so have rules and regulations changed from country to country

Again, Venetians are in the catbird seat. We have dozens of places to visit within three or four hours of Venice — at most — places that people come to from all over the world.

That being said and as much as I love a certain duck named Donald, I am not planning any trips to his world anytime soon. The folks at Disney are being cautious in limiting park guests as well as hotel guests and not opening every single ride in every park just yet, but I can live on my memories a bit longer.

What worries me are the people rushing to the big parks. While required to wear masks and have their temperature taken before entering the park and maintaining social distance etc., will they really stick to the rules? And, even if they pass the temperature test today, they may already have the virus without the rest of the symptoms. I wear my mask at work and anytime I enter a store or restaurant and I limit those times to few and far between.

But too many people still do not wear masks for all sorts of reasons that for the most part, to me and many others, are not reasonable.

I wear a mask for your protection. Those who refuse to wear a mask are basically saying they don’t care about anyone else’s safety.

If you are one of those, think about that.

Yes, we live in a free country. There are many places where you do not have to wear a mask but do you really care so little about your family and friends and neighbors?

I am not eating out as often as I used to but I have ordered take out from several places and also dined in at a couple of places that I know are being super cautious and using disposable paper menus, cleaning meticulously and limiting seating to 50% or fewer of their normal capacity.

What I find myself doing is overdosing on old TV shows and movies at home thanks to Amazon Prime and taking occasional rides around town by myself, just to see how those wonderful folks from Venice Area Beautification, Inc as well as city employees are maintaining all the flowers and plants in downtown Venice. We do live in paradise.

And the entire staff at Venice Theatre, with the help of generous donors and volunteers, are continuing to offer classes and other things online thanks to Zoom and the alike.

Venice Art Center is doing the same with some virtual shows and classes but also is open again for limited visitors and even a few students in smaller classes.

As I write this I am planning to attend the 90th anniversary party of The Players Centre via Zoom on Aug. 7. More about that in next Wednesday’s Our Town. Celebrating 90 years as a community theater is an incredible milestone. I think at this point it may be the third or fourth oldest community theater in the state.

I hope its fans ensure that it lasts for many more years. It is about to move into smaller quarters at its education center in downtown Sarasota while planning and fundraising continues for a new theater to be built at Lakewood Ranch within the next three years — hopefully. Until then, it too has gone virtual while raising money for the new building and looking for space to rent as soon as it can resume live performances.

My hope is that the people in Lakewood Ranch will dig deep in their pockets to help raise the millions needed to secure the future of The Players while also enhancing their own community. And, that Sarasota residents also will do their part to save their community theater. This area is the cultural coast of Florida and really of most of the Southeastern U.S. To lose such an old theater company would be a huge loss to this entire area.

Consider that this area has so many talented performers is very much related to the fact that this area has so many performance venues — quality performance areas.

Asolo Rep is one of the few remaining rep companies in the U.S. and mounts wonderful professional shows year in and year out. Westcoast Black Theatre is another shining star that has produced incredible shows but also has trained several performers who now are making names on the world stage. Booker High School for the Performing Arts is a unique magnet school with graduates going on to top theater training schools and companies.

Venice Theatre is the second most important community theater in the U.S. right here in this wonderful yet small city. Sarasota’s Urbanite Theatre is new to the scene but has already gathered a regular following and Florida Studio Theatre now has five venues plus a restaurant, huge education program and annual playwriting contest and annual improv festival.

The arts have shaped this area. So far, despite the pandemic, people are finding ways to give to the theaters and symphonies and chorales and Venice Concert Band but will it be enough?

While the stock market has tumbled because of these uncertain times, local real estate seems to be nearly holding its own and that is because of all that this area has to offer. A gift to any arts organization is really a gift to yourself if you are a homeowner. Consider that and if you can, write a check or two today to one or more of the theaters, music or art organizations. And not to be forgotten, local historical societies for they maintain the history of this unique treasure we call home.

Thanks for wearing your masks and even more for caring enough about your community to read your community paper and support one or more of these wonderful organizations. For your efforts, later this year, there may be an additional train car at the Historic Train Depot. Work is progressing on the future circus train car museum and the actual car may be moved to its new home later this year. The final interior work will then be done on site.

Despite the pandemic, Venice keeps on improving.


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