Welcome, Traveller

By staff November 30, 2004

Here at SARASOTA Magazine, we're embarking on a new adventure; and it all started, as so often has been the case, when a visitor discovered Southwest Florida. Let me explain.

Last February, Bill Curtis, CE0 of CurtCo Media, checked into the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. From its headquarters in Malibu, Calif., CurtCo publishes a collection of magazines for the world's most affluent readers, including Worth and The Robb Report (whose readers enjoy an average income of more than $1 million a year). Curtis, a connoisseur with a zest for the lifestyle his magazines showcase, had come to town for the four-year-old Naples Winter Wine Festival, that elite gathering of 500 of the world's most passionate food and wine lovers, which was just about to become the highest-grossing charity wine auction in the world.

It was Curtis' first visit to the region; and he was struck by its beauty, cosmopolitan atmosphere and the congenial, sophisticated people he met at the Naples event. "The combination of lifestyle and social tone was striking," he says. As a publisher who has constructed a fast-rising media empire by focusing on "the passions and dreams of an audience that can be extremely difficult to reach," Curtis realized he was seeing, in Southwest Florida, "a regional personification of that very narrow and select demographic."

Back at the Ritz-Carlton, "I picked up a copy of Gulfshore Life," Curtis recalls. What he saw intrigued him; and when he discovered that our company published not only Gulfshore Life, but SARASOTA Magazine, he realized we were kindred spirits: dedicated to quality and to the lifestyle and concerns of our exceptional readers. Discussions began; and on Oct. 1, CurtCo Media acquired Gulfshore Media and its 16 different titles.

We're thrilled about what this will mean for us-and you. Our homegrown team is staying in place, and now we'll be collaborating with some of the most creative publishing minds in the country. Expect expanded coverage of the best in luxury living, and a continued commitment to our beautiful region. From the minute he arrived in Southwest Florida, "the place opened its arms and embraced us," Curtis says. We'll return that embrace, supporting more great community causes and special events. And our advertisers and community partners will share in the opportunities, gaining a voice and presence far beyond our shores.

But momentous as this new alliance is to us, it's really just another chapter in a long-running Southwest Florida story. Generations of visionaries have come for a visit only to fall in love with the region and return, bringing their dreams and passions with them. Some were successful entrepreneurs and artists-John Ringling in the '20s, novelist John D. MacDonald in the '50s, today's high-flying, telecommuting CEOS. Others were ordinary people with big dreams, like those airmen who, after World War II, brought their young families back to the paradise they'd discovered while stationed nearby. All have left their mark upon the region, adding their talents and energy to our ever-evolving story.

Whether you're an old-timer and already part of that story or a first-timer beginning your first chapter, this Visitor's Annual will help you discover the best of Sarasota. In addition to comprehensive information about beaches, attractions, arts, entertainment and more, we've included special guides to downtown, Siesta Key, Longboat/St. Armands/Lido and Venice/Englewood. You'll also find stories on some quintessential Sarasota subjects, from legendary architect Paul Rudolph, who first won international acclaim for the clean-lined beach houses he built here in the '50s, to the gentle manatee, those beleaguered, bewhiskered sea cows that have sparked one of the bitterest environmental battles in history.

But to get into the proper self-indulgent vacation state of mind, we suggest you start with dessert-"Sarasota's 10 Best Desserts," that is. In our tireless pursuit of investigative journalism, we sent Patty Larsen out to track down the 10 top treats in town. Larsen, a tall and slender former model, canvassed chefs, foodies and fellow hedonists, then, with the occasional help of her husband and two sons, tasted her way around town. Weeks later (and annoyingly, not a single pound heavier), she brought back the goodies: please turn to page 156 and dig in. Like generations of visitors before you, you'll see just how sweet Sarasota can be.

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