The woman shuffled from the snack stand at Siesta Key toting cheese fries. She wore a head covering, a green modesty swim dress and the footwear that transcends religion and culture, Crocs.
Here, near Sarasota's Amish and Mennonite community of Pinecraft, things we know and things we think we know are tangled somewhere between a volleyball net and a slice of shoofly pie.
What we know: It's time for spring break, when thousands of college students in stringy swimsuits blanket Florida beaches, hang off balconies and chug alcohol in precarious situations. Lifetime movies have been made as a result.
What we think we know: This does not apply to the Amish and Mennonites, a somewhat mysterious and suddenly trendy population, thanks to the boob tube and odd real-life headlines about beard-cutting hate groups. The first time they meet the modern world, it is on TLC, headlong on a stripper pole greased with baby oil and Jagermeister. Or, according to the "reality" show Amish Mafia, they're goodfellas with facial hair.
Amish and Mennonites of all different stripes have long ventured to this town peppered with clotheslines and ice cream shops because like most cold humans, they want to thaw. A tourist church has anchored Pinecraft for decades, drawing buses of visitors who pay $250 round trip. Eateries like the famous Yoder's Restaurant revel in old-style cooking and new-world achievements, touting a visit from the Travel Channel's Man v. Food on a flat-screen TV while you wait for a seat.
It's not technically spring break; many of these visitors start working after eighth grade. But they're there, on break, in the spring, shedding a layer or two. They're a private people, not always eager to talk or be photographed. But you can't help but want to try.
Stephanie Hayes wrote this for the Tampa Bay Times in February 2013. Read the rest of the story here.