A Night to Remember
By Adam Davies
In the winter of 2011, I accepted an offer to be the writer-in-residence at New College. I had researched the city well enough to know all the things the tourism bureau wanted me to know: Sarasota has great art, great dining, great culture, great beaches. I was totally amped. When I arrived in town, however, I found myself most moved by something else entirely: the 50th anniversary celebration at New College of Florida.
The event took place on the lush green lawns behind the magnificent marble-and-stone buildings that overlook the bay. The opulence of the setting contrasted with the neo-hippie aesthetic and manners of the New College students to create a marvelous and unlikely scene, as if a Jay Gatsby party had been transported to a Ken Kesey novel. And the night was perfect. Cool, with salty breezes, and an ardent, berry-red sunset—the kind of evening that is rare in almost every part of the world but is routine, I’ve discovered, in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Orchestra was there, too, playing all night long. I am not a virtuoso by any imagining, but it was the most beautiful musical performance that I have ever experienced. To be free to walk and gaze across the gleaming water of the bay, to stride through the verdant grass, to talk animatedly with strangers who shared the same love of New College, all while this majestic music echoed off the water and spread out over the cooling nighttime air—it was pure magic.
Students were there, of course, and faculty and administration and people from the community, but there were also mothers and fathers who had gone to New College celebrating with children who were current students. Everyone seemed delighted to see each other. There were spontaneous improvised picnics and joyous couples arm-in-arm and children playing and students engaging in good-natured hijinks. It was like a family reunion of disparate parts that somehow all fit together. In fact, it was one of the most powerful feelings of togetherness that I have ever experienced, and it made me feel, after only two short weeks of living in Sarasota, that I already belonged.
Contributing editor Adam Davies has returned to New College as this spring’s writer-in-residence.