CARL KOLOGIE: Snowbirds heading north
April 06, 2014 1:50 AM

It’s just a matter of time, maybe a week or so, when Florida residents will breathe a collective sigh of relief and return to their normal lifestyle.

This means that the snowbirds are now flying north.

That’s when traffic returns to normal, the waiting lines in restaurants are non-existent, parking spots at the malls are much closer to the store entrances and there is just a general slow-down of activity everywhere.

Although Central Florida — where we are located — never does get as hectic as the East or West coasts at the height of the season, there is still a significant number of visitors from the North.

In fact, a story in the local newspaper — The Ledger, which is published in Lakeland — reported that Florida attracted 94.7 millions visitors last year, 3.7 million of which were Canadians. Those visitation totals were record highs, according to the news story.

The nasty winter has led to a greater number of northern visitors staying a little longer this year, which results in an increase in revenue from tourism.

The residents north of the U.S. border have their own organization, the Canadian Snowbird Association, and held their annual Snowbird Extravaganza in January at Lakeland.

This year the event attracted a record number and past entertainers included Canadians Rich Little, who has become a regular at Jimmy Stewart Museum events, and country singer Michelle Wright.

Usually the Canadian snowbirds are the first to leave Florida as they must limit their stay to less than six months to comply with the 185-day rule to avoid paying income taxes in both countries.

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At last count, there were 27 residents or former residents from Indiana County living in this Polk County community near Lake Wales.

Several have returned home in the last few weeks but the majority will be filtering north this month.

Former Indiana native Don Douds was a visitor this week and was hosted by his boyhood friend Dennis “Smitty” Smith.

Douds, who starred as a basketball player at both Indiana High School and IUP, retired from teaching and coaching in Maryland and now is a permanent resident of Palm Beach Gardens in West Palm Beach.

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Friday evening we had an interesting experience at Bok Tower Gardens, a national historic landmark near Lake Wales.

A variety of programs are held throughout the year at Bok Tower, which is marking its 85th anniversary, and “Sleepless in Seattle” was the featured film of the Flicks in the Garden event held on the Olmsted House Lawn.

It was different, but we got out just before the mosquitoes became a problem.

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