This year was a year of colossal change for Sarasota. Hurricane Ian knocked us for a loop. The Bay opened to the public. Our newly conservative School Board gave our superintendent the boot. Condos popped out of the ground at a record rate. And the cast of MTV's Siesta Key all moved to Miami for some reason.
It's also been a year of change for Sarasota Magazine. I was named editor in chief here after Susan Burns retired earlier this year, and it has been a whirlwind—a blur of new projects (did you know we're on TikTok now?), blown deadlines and heroic work from our talented staff and freelancers. As I was looking back at this year, I couldn't help but want to highlight some of my favorite stories we've published this year, some of which I'd wager you missed. Settle in, get comfy and spend some time with these 10 stories.
Kevin Coval is a nationally known journalist and author who covers hip hop and all manner of other topics. When I met him for coffee this year, my first question was, "Does Sarasota have any good rappers?" He immediately answered in the affirmative, and then set out to prove it, digging into a burgeoning local music scene that has talent to burn. For a fun followup, you must read his profile of the Bradenton rapper Lil Cross and his Dead to the World collective. It's a rollicking read that will leave you scouring Spotify for more local hip hop.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to make you realize that you're taking something for granted. Consider shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. I've eaten them for decades and enjoyed them plenty, but I never understood how special they are until journalist and author Alexander Lobrano, who spent decades as a food critic in Paris, made the case that they are one of the world's great foods. The result: a story that will have you making a beeline to the seafood counter as soon as possible.
Of course, living in Sarasota isn't all fun and games. As housing costs spiraled out of control in recent years, many locals—even those with solid, enduring careers with good salaries—found themselves struggling to find a place to live. In this authoritative feature, associate editor Kim Doleatto puts the reader in the shoes of families that are struggling to make ends meet. It's a necessary counterpoint to the triumphalist headlines about why Sarasota is such a great place to live.
In this gripping tale, journalist Hannah Wallace recounts in vivid, eye-popping detail what it's like to have a near-death experience. After experiencing severe stomach pain, Wallace headed to the hospital to seek a diagnosis, but she had no idea what she was in for: emergency surgery, followed by weeks of terrifying hallucinations and nightmares as her condition worsened. Wallace eventually made it back to the other side, and was courageous enough to tell us what her dark journey was like.
The show locals love to hate or hate to love, MTV's Siesta Key moved on from Southwest Florida this year, with several cast members decamping for Miami to film the nonsensically titled new season Siesta Key: Miami Moves. Journalist Elizabeth Djinis has been on the MTV beat for years now, and penned a thoughtful farewell to the show, which touches on the ways in which it missed an opportunity to examine what life is really like for 20-somethings in Sarasota.
Speaking of love-hate relationships, this was the year that perennial Republican provocateur Martin Hyde raised his profile considerably with a congressional campaign challenging longtime incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan. Hyde has been known for his antics at City Commission and School Board meetings for years, and is typically dismissed as a troll. But associate editor Isaac Eger spent some time getting to know Hyde this summer, and came away with a more nuanced understanding of Hyde and his ambitions.
"Coastal Grandmother" chic took the world by storm this year, and we couldn't help but look a little askance at the trend. After all, we've been the capital of coastal grandmother swag since before it was even a thing. In this fun gift guide, digital editor Megan McDonald makes the case for Sarasota being the originator of the coastal grandmother vibe, and clues you into how to make the look your own.
You can't talk about 2022 without talking about Hurricane Ian, and longtime contributing editor Robert Plunket's first-person account of escaping a mobile home in Englewood as the storm descended is, to me, one of the definitive pieces of writing about the disaster. Plunket takes you through the fear, the indecision and the uncertainty of the storm, in riveting detail.
I've always wanted to go scalloping in Crystal River, which is located about 130 miles north of Sarasota, but, for now, I'll have to settle for the next-best thing: having associate editor Lauren Jackson tell us all about it. Jackson made the trip north in July, and dove into the water to collect scallops and learn more about how the Nature Coast is preserving its habitat. Bookmark this story, and come back to it when you're ready to go on your own scalloping adventure.
The history of so-called circus "freakshows" is ugly, tangled and complicated, and contributing editor Robert Plunket explored it all head on in this remarkable retrospective. Plunket examines the appeal of such shows, the exploitation that occurred and the ethical quandries in which the performers and circus managers often found themselves. For a city that became famous in part because of its ties to the circus, it's a vital read.