I’m Not Leaving Lakeland….Please Send Money

I am absolutely entranced by the city of Lakeland. I don’t think I’m going home to Memphis. I’m just going to have my dog and cats shipped here, and I’ll work from the FedEx office in Downtown Lakeland. Can someone please tell my boss?

I took a walk around the city tonight after work, and I totally fell in love. This is truly Small Town America. I’ve already been quite smitten with the people here who call you Darlin’ and talk to you like you are the best thing they’ve seen since their children were born. The local restaurants are so quaint and good that they seem like they should be on a movie set. But, now the entire town has blown me away. I feel like I’m in one of those Candid Camera episodes where somebody will finally come up and say this was all a joke and the town was set up just to make me think someplace like this exists. Smile…you’re on Candid Camera!….and, I’m busted.

The locals did tell me about their controversial Sheriff. He’s doing a great job apprehending criminals, but the locals are in an uproar because it’s making their town look like there is a crime problem. Huh? Well, I guess that’s a problem to have. I also noticed a strange happening tonight as I was walking around town. People all over the place had their lawn chairs tied up on the sidewalks as if they were putting them on display. I walked by one group and asked if they were watching the traffic go by. They looked at me and laughed. I saw more and more lawn chairs, all alone, tied up on the sidewalks. It was really weird. So, I asked a woman who was coming out of her car to place her lawn chairs among the rest of them to explain this strange custom. “There’s a big Christmas parade tomorrow night. But, you’ll never get a good seat if you don’t put your chairs out tonight,” she informed me. Must be some parade.

Apparently, the parade is two hours long. Everybody in town (who isn’t sitting in their lawn chairs on the sidewalk) will be in it. My informant said professionally designed floats will parade by along with senior citizens riding John Deere tractors. She introduced me to her daughter who will be dancing in the parade tomorrow. A two hour parade? I said, “Wow. I hate that I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m missing the parade AND the First Friday celebration.” That’s why I’m staying. This is just too good to miss. I’m going to buy a lawn chair and tie it up as soon as I get done here.

I was looking at the beautiful painted swans and butterflies throughout town, and I asked a woman out walking her dog what was the significance of them. “I don’t know about the butterflies, ” she said. She went on to tell me that the original Lakeland swans (live ones) got sick and died. Legend has it that one of the townspeople wrote to Queen Elizabeth and asked if she would donate some of her swans’ lineage to the town to replenish the flock. She did. So, the local white swans are of royal lineage. Well, that’s pretty significant, I guess.

I thought I had seen most of the really cute downtown area, but I went in search of a Cuban restaurant that was recommended to me. When I got close to the corner of Main and Tennessee, I realized I was standing in an old Southern Town Square. They had it decorated to the nines with Christmas lights everywhere. In fact, the entire city is decked out better than the city of New York during the holidays. Lakeland doesn’t let a little warm weather wilt their holiday celebration. I discovered several nice restaurants and quite a few local taverns, all dressed up in holiday fare. I ended up eating at Palace Pizza which was recommended to me at lunch, and I’m not even going to talk about what I ate. My acupuncturist is about ready to fire me as a patient anyway. This story won’t help me out.

I just can’t say enough about this little gem of a town. I’m so glad FedEx has a place here. I hope there are a lot of managerial problems which require training. I’ll be happy to volunteer to help them out on a long-term basis. I haven’t even visited the Florida Southern College that is loaded with about 20 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. I’m going to run there tomorrow morning. I wonder what surprises await me there. Stay tuned. Now, where did I see that ad for lawn chairs???……..

NOTE: My blog host changed the photo sharing platform, and it’s not working. While I am very grateful that they are trying to make it more user-friendly, I’m not grateful that it’s not working today. I’m more than a little frustrated. Today, you’ll just have to see the pics with no captions. Sorry…we’ll all survive the disappointment, I imagine.


41 Comments on “I’m Not Leaving Lakeland….Please Send Money

  1. Seems wordpress as thrown a few glitches into my blog-ability as well! Hope this comment posts, as that is one of my least favorite.
    Lovely post – seems like a great place to live. Had to chuckle about them locals lining up for the parade… good stuff and brings back a lot of memories.
    My best to you!

    • Are you from Lakeland or just another small town like it? I had a blast and thanks for the compliment. Some things just write themselves.

  2. Sounds like you had a great visit professionally and personally. Let’s get together soon. Maybe Karen can join us too. I’d really like that.

  3. Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your blog with us! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed your stay in Lakeland and I look forward to welcoming you back soon… you’ve only seen a small part of what makes our home so wonderful!

    • I can’t wait to come back! Be sure to read “Leaving a Legacy” which is about Frank Lloyd Wrights work at Florida Southern and “Lakeland, Lake Hollingsworth and 24 Hour Love” which are also about your awesome town!

      Thanks for reading and thanks to Lakeland for being so special!

  4. Sharon, you are a gift to us who love Lakeland! Thank you for your humorous and very accurate description of our slice of small town America! I look forward to reading about your descriptions of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and Lake Hollingsworth! Thank you for sharing, we love our town and our community! Be sure to check out the Downtown Lakeland Facebook page for photos of the parade and First Friday! Come back soon, Darlin’!

    • Thanks so much for reading it! I loved the town, obviously. I’m a small town girl myself, so it just brought me back to a gentler time. After I wrote my blogs, I’ve had several readers say they want to go there. Maybe you’ll get a little tourist burst! haha…

    • I just shared your blog link on my FB page. I love your style! Keep writing. You have a great voice that I’d like to continue to hear.

  5. I moved to Lakeland, my husband’s home town, about 21 years ago. It has been the most amazing place to raise our children and build our lives! I often wonder if what we have here really exists anyplace else. I’m so glad that you felt the heart of the city and it’s people while you were here. That is really where its charm lies.The rest is gravy! Thanks for beginning my day with a smile!

    • Oh, how lucky you are to find a charming place like this and a man from there to boot! It’s been really fun to see all the Lakeland FL dots appearing on my blog map. Makes me feel loved and THAT makes me smile. Thanks for reading!

  6. It is wonderful you had such a super time! It was funny to see the photos of the brick street with the alley cats, that’s right in my back yard. Thought I would pass along the mystery of the butterflies…they were a fund raising idea. Local artists created their individual butterfly then auctioned them off to businesses. The money went to create a local park, CommonGround, for kids with different abilities and disabilities to play along beside one another (sweet huh?).

    • I was so hoping someone would pony up the story on the butterflies. They were beautiful. And, yes, it is sweet. But, so much about Lakeland is. The people were so friendly. I loved the waitress at the Reececliff Diner. She kept calling me Darlin. Made me feel right at home. Thanks for sharing the story and thanks for reading my blog.

  7. Thank you for the kind words about our city. It truly is a special place to live. I can’t tell you how many people who have never really visited Lakeland do not have a true understanding of what a great place it is to live. I did not grow up here, but I went to college at Florida Southern, left after graduation, returned three years later and have now been here for 13 years. I can’t see moving my family anywhere else.

  8. I love, love, love your post! I’ve lived in Lakeland since 1999 and have often said it’s the only place that’s ever felt like home, other than the city I’m actually from. Come back again soon!

  9. Heartfelt thanks from a long-time Lakelander. You ‘get’ us and you are always welcome here! There is much more to explore – hope you return soon! I also read your post about Florida Southern. I found it thought provoking. I feel like I need to return to campus and see it with fresh perspective. BTW – my husband proposed to me just outside the chapel, much like you may have imagined.

    • Thanks so much for reading, and thanks for sharing that tidbit about your proposal. I did indeed imagine something like that might happen there. It is such a lovely place.

  10. What a great post! I am a 24-year-old who was born and raised in Lakeland. I’ve lived in Virginia and Scotland, but I couldn’t stay away, and now I’ve convinced my boyfriend to move down from Middle Tennessee. I hope you’ll make it back! We’re having a food truck rally downtown tomorrow! πŸ™‚

    • Dang…I sure hate to miss that food truck rally! Please take some pics and post to my Midlife Moments Blog FB page if you have a chance! Especially pics of the food and people! Woohoo!!!

  11. Dear Sharon,
    I’m a 40 something New Orleans, Louisiana girl who has lived in Lakeland for the past 6 years. You’re observations perfectly captured the heart of the city of Lakeland. We moved here between Thanksgiving and Christmas and witnessed first-hand the strange phenomenon of the lawn chairs. My first thought was “WHO in there right mind SITS DOWN for a parade?’ Though I miss Louisiana, Lakeland has become our home!

    Kelly T.

    • How cool! Maybe Louisiana people just fit right in there! I love the whole lawn chair thing. I’m guessing maybe you are a Katrina survivor, then? Thanks for reading my blog. Take care…I’ll let you know if I can make it back for a visit! BTW…you might want to read my blog “Coonass Gold….Gumbo” if you are ever homesick. πŸ™‚

  12. I had to find and post this again today, the day of Lakeland’s Christmas Parade. There was chatter about whether or not the chairs should be out so early. Yes they are part of the festivities. Come again to Lakeland. #LoveLakeland.

    • I can tell you posted the blog. My Lakeland blog was my most read piece for a year and a half before I wrote a piece on the magic of football. My stats yesterday and today are through the roof! 1100 reads and counting. You made my day.

  13. So glad you loved it! You described our town perfectly! Sorry to hear you missed out on the parade, it was wonderful! Hope you get to visit again soon!

    • I’d love to! I’m so glad my blog is recirculating, and I can totally see those streets lined with chairs right now in my imaginative mind. Maybe I’ll go back next year for the parade! I already have some great friends.

  14. I’m a lakeland native, and now I’m raising my own family here. Your kind words about our town made me smile, and even tear up a little. It’s funny to read someone else’s opinion about a town I think I’ve taken for granted. Thanks for helping me remember why I’ve never left. Ps: I got a little nervous you would name the best Cuban restaurant in the world! πŸ˜‰

    • lol! I’m so glad that you enjoyed my blog! I was thrilled when I heard it was reposted. It brought back such great memories of my week there. It truly is a beautiful piece of Americana.

  15. Pingback: Feeling the Love from Lakeland | Midlife Moments

  16. Love lakeland. Grew up here and still here. If you get a chance check out the polk theatre and fat maggies restaurant.

  17. I lived in Winter Haven, a small town outside of Lakeland, for 14 years, now am a Georgia dweller. Though I didn’t really like the area I lived, and am happy to live elsewhere now, Lakeland was always the place to go when ever my family and I wanted to have a good time. We would actually go to Lakeland rather than Orlando/Kissimmee area though they were both close in distance/time away. The Christmas parade is always quite awesome, too! Glad you enjoyed your time there!
    P.S. Sheriff Grady Judd for President!! Love and miss that man as my sheriff!

  18. My husband and I moved to Lakeland 9 years ago “from the North” as they say here. We instantly loved the great restaurants, seeing all the amazing wildlife, and how close it was to so many things. I think you really captured the city. I hope you will come back and visit again because you need to go to First Friday, the Downtown Farmers Market, and some more great restaurants.

  19. What a great article! I have lived in Lakeland all my life and never really thought of it as small town America, but glad you saw it in that light. Oh! The Polk Theater is a must if you come back. I have such special memories going there as a child, the ceiling looks like the night sky. Just magical to me. I told my daughter recently it really is the perfect town. If you want more night life or bigger shopping or amusement parks (if you are into any of that) it’s just an hours drive east or west of us and then you can come back home to small town America.

  20. I posted on Facebook the day of our parade. Glad it went viral.

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