Anna Maria, A Snowbird’s Anniversary – March 11, 2021

It’s really nothing to celebrate.  This anniversary just happened over time.

A year gone by and we have returned like the snowbirds to this beach community along the Gulf Coast.  Anna Maria Island (AMI) is south of Tampa and East of Bradenton, FL.  

AMI, popular for its family friendly beach atmosphere and sugar fine white sand beaches splits a geopositioned land mass between the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.  Like fisheries and loggerhead turtles these snowbirds return here annually.   It’s an anniversary marked as sunlight beams signifying longer daylight days tilt above the equator.  

However, this time it is different.

A year ago, the local and national broadcast airways became a white blizzard of breaking news noise.  A virus named SARS-CoV-2 would be known as the COVID-19 was marching towards a worldwide pandemic outbreak. 

Symbolized by virus infected cruise ships like the Diamond Princess many searched for a safe harbor. Travel plans rapidly unraveled because there was fear and scary places to go.

Caught between a “Big Boy” restaurant moment every non-local down along this Gulf Coast community faced the same decision – “do I stay, or do I go”.  Go where? Borders were closing rapidly both interstate and internationally. 

States implemented mobility rules that reduced travel patterns to beltway connected communities.  Canada closed its border with the US.  You had to be a native to return. International flights between European countries, Canada, Mexico, and China became fodder for a national debate.

Back then the casual observer could see Canadian snowbirds begin their quick migration dragging their RV motorhomes northward up I-75, I-10, I-95, to I-64 to I-90 via I-81 and eventually back across the border to their provinces.

Native East Coasters and Midwestern snowbirds unsure if their extended vacation rentals would expire quickly by Florida state orders or be allow a temporary refuge had to choose to return northward abandoning their springtime nests to head home.

Updates from those at home reported panic and outages in the local grocery paper aisles.  Before everyone left, they gobbled up any toilet paper and Clorox spray disinfectants they could find.  It wasn’t much.  

Messaging from local, state, and federal politicians confused and muddled the early response as reflected by their own public health officials.  Many snowbirds packed lunches for rides north.  No one stopped at roadside travel oasis restaurants choosing rather to eat outdoors at rest stop picnic tables, maskless.

What followed in the intervening year of time and its pandemic space was in a word, horrific.  However, during that same space and time, it was also miraculous, heroic, disappointing, revealing, and flat out unbelievable.  

From March 2020 through January 2021 there was much change and chaos rooted in this pandemic.  Its historic impact will still be written about over the next decade.

One year later families, communities and populous worldwide are coping with mechanisms that require simple health guidelines and trust in each other and their governments in hopes of moving beyond the aftereffects of 2020.  Not everyone’s approach is the same.

To watch as numerous vaccines developed that begins to neutralize the COVID-19 Virus, was a miraculous accomplishment of science.  To understand the complexity for first distributing then deploying those vaccines worldwide now requires hope, faith, and a determined greater human spirit.

We are all concerned for family.  Hope is for effective and sufficient vaccines to be forthcoming for loved ones, for those most at risk, for the youth, and for those not readily seen, for all. 

We seek a safe and orderly deployment because we know all too well the statistics of this past year. Candlelight vigils, flags at half-staff, empty seats at the table, memorials and remembrances keep it fresh within sight.

Which makes the return to the Gulf Coast as a snowbird like a circadian cycle, an order by nature.

Over the past year what started as a response to the pandemic’s impacts, the MatchLIDProject now takes on a new direction.  Oh, it will still provide commentary on the plight of restaurants and their intersection with the sporting world.  But now it needs to move forward to display how each has changed their direction, positive or otherwise.

As for sports, yes, them too.  MLB has its baseball spring training underway.  States have recently begun lifting restrictions on occupancy percentages in arenas, restaurants, and churches.  The NCAA will hold college basketballs’ March Madness championship completely in venues across Indiana with limited paying attendance.  Even concert and theater venues are opening under reduced capacity.

However, were any lessons learned from this past year?  Did anyone apply those lessons?  What’s changed? What will change?

Were changes made for business survival purposes implemented in a newly operational metric?  If not, what are the new metrics?  Or like our collective snowbirds is it just the business of spring rituals returning to its commonplace normal?

So, this anniversary was a year in the making and the next cycle has just begun.

The MatchLIDProject

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