Breakfast came early, but everyone arrived in the lobby wearing their tour t-shirts in preparation for a morning concert in casual attire. Some of us sang Come, Unity during breakfast, which always brings a smile to hotel employees and guests and starts conversation. Scott Fulton, a former member of Damascus UMC, wrote the song Come, Unity and used to sing it with a group called The Companions. He has a heart for justice, and we are so pleased to share his song in concerts and hotel lobbies and other random spots on our trip.
We sang Happy Birthday to Shane Johnson on the am bus ride to Sarasota, and he got to be a morning greeter with Stephanie Greer. Our ride to First UMC was short and we arrived about 9:30 am. Everyone entered the sanctuary and had some time to sit in calmness while music and instruments were set up. Our host Michael Stuart was very welcoming and gracious, eager to engage us in conversation.
We had an 11 am concert - our audience was a combination of church members, folks from Damascus UMC who traveled to see us, and family members/friends of our group. It seems that Carol Worrell has a friend in almost every place we’ve visited, and they all took her invitation seriously and came to our concerts. We were also surprised and delighted to meet some siblings of Julia Beall. The Hulcher’s also had a connection in Sarasota.
The church was a very fun place to sing, and we all seemed especially focused and engaged for 11 am in the morning. Matthew Baldridge felt he played the percussion the best he ever had for the Chichester Psalms, and Steve Kalnoske continues to enjoy playing different organs (his “office for the day”) in the sanctuaries we visit.
We learned after the concert that First UMC is starting a youth choir and their first rehearsal is this coming Wednesday. We invited director Michael Stuart to come see us WHEN (not if) his new group is ready to tour.
We ate pizza provided by the church for lunch and enjoyed a little ping pong in the youth lounge, had birthday festivities for Shane, and then changed into bathing suits.
A crew had checked the beach at Siesta Key to ensure we would not be affected by the Red Tide, so we arrived about 1:30 pm and started our beach experience with a group sunscreen application in the parking lot. We all stayed in the same vicinity, but a group went right to the sand volleyball courts while others dropped their stuff in the sand and went into the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. Many commented about the fine white sand and the gentleness of the water. We secured a couple beach umbrellas and some sat in the shade to nap or read. It was HOT. Others stayed in an outdoor park/cafe area to reserve picnic areas for dinner time.
There were some mild sunburns, but Liz and other chaperones were vigilant about enforcing sunscreen reapplication. By dinner at 5 pm, everyone seemed ready to wrap up the beach visit. Jonathan Colborn and Phil Hulcher with Carol Worrell cooked up some great burgers and hotdogs - our food committee did an awesome job purchasing and preparing dinner.
We ate and drank our fill and then began the arduous task of changing out of sandy bathing suits. By 6 pm, all of us had changed, personal items left in the sand were reunited with their owners, dinner was cleaned up, and air conditioned vehicles were beginning to cool us down. We departed for overnight accommodations in Gainesville.
The bus ride was about 3 hours, and there was energetic socializing throughout the ride. We arrived at our hotel, and at least half of our very patient and flexible group had to come back downstairs to get their room keys reprogrammed because the ones we were given weren’t working. So proud of our group for handling this graciously. We all got to bed pretty quickly - no arguments after a long day.
Click Here for Pictures from Day 8