Many Americans still wonder why anyone would live in a hot, humid climate better suited for alligators than people. By August, the high holy season for hurricanes and mosquitoes, even Floridians concede the point. But the next two weeks should remind millions why they make the Tampa Bay area their home.
The cool, sunny weather will return to welcome a slew of annual, outdoor events. This weekend, hundreds of artists at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts will line the streets of downtown Tampa. But there is something close to home for everyone: a seafood festival in Safety Harbor, antiques shows in Dunedin and Belleair Bluffs, spring training baseball on both sides of the bay. Many of these events are free. Plant City's Strawberry Festival runs through Sunday. Forget the umbrella but grab the sunscreen. Lows on both sides of the bay will be in the low 60s with highs near 80. Next weekend it continues with, among other things, the crawfish festival in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park.
Tampa was just named one of the top five big cities in the nation where Americans say they would like to live. Thirty-four percent of respondents to a Pew Research Center survey gave a thumbs-up to Tampa and its metropolitan areas. As residents, we know the frustrations of living here: the state of many of our schools and roads, the inequitable tax base, the punishing homeowners insurance premiums and the bumper-to-bumper traffic. But we have professional sports year-round, a world-class airport and gorgeous sunsets over the gulf. No wonder a third of Americans say they would trade places with us. So get out and enjoy it. We will be cranking up the air conditioning, stockpiling water and watching the Weather Channel soon enough.