Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Snowbirds Hardly Rushing North after Early Easter

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Snowbirds Hardly Rushing North after Early Easter

Article excerpt

SEASON: Next few weeks will see gradual exodus of those out-of- state plates

LAUREL

At the Royal Coachman RV Resort, tennis-playing snowbirds celebrated the end of tourist season with a silly triples tournament.

Just for fun, six players at a time crowded onto the court to hit soft practice balls. They lost points for things like talking too much and hitting too hard.

Referee Len DeCoste kept the score close with creative calls. The highlight of Wednesday's tournament came when he singled out Arvid Vaaten.

"Too much hair," DeCoste shouted -- only to be upstaged by Vaaten, who snatched off his toupee and finished the game with a bald head under his visor.

Many snowbirds will flock north in the next few weeks, but the 67- year-old Vaaten says he'll stay until May.

"There's no reason," he joked, "to be in Wisconsin in April."

Weather-watching

Easter came early this year, which left thousands of Gulf Coast retirees wondering when to return north.

Some wait for grandchildren to visit on spring break. Some look forward to April events such as the Sarasota Film Festival. And some watch the weather -- they're called snowbirds for a reason.

"We keep calling," said Sue Terry, a visitor from Vermont. "And they keep telling us that it's still snowing. We live on a mountain with a dirt road, so we have a fifth season called mud season."

At Royal Coachman, where residents live in recreational vehicles and manufactured homes, active retirees savor the warm spring weather. The Dona Bay resort looks like a wooded sports camp, with residents riding bicycles and carrying foam noodles to water aerobics classes.

Billboards on the park exit to Laurel Road encourage residents to keep playing golf and going to the beach.

"Stay A Little Longer," the signs say. "Ask About Our Extension Rates."

O, Canadians

A Canadian flag flies beside the American one at Royal Coachman. Many residents travel south from the province of Ontario.

Peggy Hebden, 57, was the general manager of a television station in Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay. Last year, she decided to retire.

"I spent the last five years laying off half my staff," she said. "Finally, I said, 'This isn't fun.'"

Now Hebden lives on a houseboat in the summer and at the RV resort in winter. …

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