Before I started writing my Sarasota Dreams series about 3 Mennonite couples a few years ago, I needed to do some research in Pinecraft, a community in Sarasota, Florida, that is populated by Amish and Mennonites. Like others who visit Florida, they come down from northern states to enjoy the sun, sand, and laid-back lifestyle of this delightful community. As time passed, more and more of these northern Plain folks decided to make Pinecraft their permanent home.
Some people think that Old Order Mennonite and Amish people subscribe to the “all work and no play” philosophy of life, but that isn’t so. In this delightful community you’ll see groups of people engaging in all sorts of activities including shuffleboard, pie contests, leisurely strolls on the beach, and neighborly chats at the park.
What makes this community different is that the various groups from all of the northern states converge and manage to blend their unique traditions from their home churches. From varying dialects to unique-to-each-family styles of peanut butter pie, you’ll see variety among the people of Pinecraft.
While many of the more contemporary Mennonite groups embrace modern life, some of them have clung to their roots with the traditional style of dress, transportation, and other traditions. That doesn’t stop them from riding their three-wheel “bikes” around the community, stopping to engage in a lively game of shuffleboard, and then wheeling on to the big parking lot in the heart of the community where buses stop every Wednesday to deliver more of their friends from the north. This has turned into a huge social event, with a large turnout of people coming to greet the buses.
I had the opportunity to be among the greeters one warm Wednesday afternoon. After a delicious lunch at Yoder’s Restaurant, my friends and I walked the half-block to the parking lot and stood among bearded men and aproned women who’d converged to wait for the buses.
After I purchased a community newspaper and chatted with the delightful Pinecraft photographer and reporter Katie Troyer, the first bus arrived from Ohio. Next came Michigan and then Pennsylvania. As people stepped off the buses, their faces flush with a combination of exhaustion from the long bus ride and excitement to finally arrive at their favorite vacation spot, I saw them looking around for old friends they connected with every year.
The beauty of this community is that all of the differences among the various Amish and Mennonites groups are embraced and accepted. They eat together, play together, and show their guests a wonderful time. I plan to go back to Pinecraft next time I visit Sarasota because nothing can beat the delicious food and warm hospitality.
Debby Mayne is an author and speaker who has published more than 30 books and novellas, approximately 400 short stories and articles, and a slew of devotions for busy women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for a TV retailer, a creative writing instructor, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. She enjoys writing Christian fiction because it allows her the freedom to tell stories without restraining her convictions.
She and her husband of more than 30 year, Wally, have two grown daughters, Lauren and Alison, two sons-in-law, Jason and Ryan, and two granddaughters. The couple makes their home on the west coast of Florida.