The Criminal Investigation Division special agents featured in my books are stationed at Fort Rickman, a fictional Army post located in Georgia, near
the Amish community of Freemont. When my soldiers need a break from solving crimes, they head to the barrier islands along the coast for some much deserved R&R.
But where, you might ask, do my Amish characters go for rest and relaxation? Chances are Isaac Fisher and his family, from Stranded, would climb aboard a chartered bus and head south to Pinecraft, Florida. Established in the 1920s as a tourist camp, the once rural section of Sarasota County has long been a favorite destination for Amish and Mennonite families eager to trade the harsh northern winters for Florida’s blue skies, salt air and sunshine.
From January to April each year, some 5,000 folks visit the historic district, now surrounded by the sprawling city of Sarasota. Approximately 700 homes—a mix of bungalows and trailers–rent to the influx of vacationers, with many families reserving lodging a year in advance. Bikes, either traditional or three-wheel carriage style, are the favorite mode of transportation, and everyone from grandparents to youngsters can be seen peddling along the backstreets, waving to neighbors or stopping to chat with friends.
Pinecraft Park provides a central gathering spot, along with shuffleboard and bocce ball courts that are always in demand. At night, concerts of bluegrass or gospel music entertain folks who tap their toes or nod to the strum of banjos and guitars. On warm days, a city bus takes the vacationing snowbirds to Siesta Key, where they bask in the sun or frolic in waves that wash up on the sand.
The various Amish and Mennonite sects remain segregated at home, yet they mix and mingle while on vacation. Many of the rules under which they usually live are loosened or disregarded. Even their aversion to photographs eases, and while they don’t pose for pictures, they don’t shy away from the camera either.
Just as seasons change, vacations come to an end, and saying goodbye is always hard. Warm hugs and hearty handshakes, coupled with the promise to return again next year, help soften the separation. As they’ve done for decades, Amish and Mennonite families will continue to find rest and relaxation in the tranquil community that encompasses 178 acres known as Pinecraft, a vacation oasis found in my Military Investigation series.
Debby Giusti met and married her husband–then a Captain in the Army–at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Together they’ve traveled the world, raised three wonderful children and have now settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where Debby spins tales of mystery and suspense that touch the heart and soul. Memories of her youth include visiting grandparents in Ohio and nearby Amish communities in Holmes County. Later as a teen and again as an adult, she lived in Pennsylvania, close to the Amish she includes in her Military Investigations series for Love Inspired Books.
Debby’s work has won numerous awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Suspense, National Readers’ Choice Award, Golden Quill and Beacon. Her fourteenth novel, Stranded, was released in March, and Person of Interest follows in August 2015.
Purchase Debby’s books here.