MANCHESTER – With winter storm warnings reaching as far south as Florida this week, many residents of the Sunshine State have had enough of the cold weather and the snow and are looking to spend their winters in Vermont, one of the few eastern states not expected to see major snow over the next few days.
“I’m just fed up,” said Horseshoe Beach resident Lorne Petersen. “I’ve lived in Florida all my life, and I swore I’d die here, but now that I’m older I find that I can’t take the weather like I used to. Vermont might be colder, but at least it’s always colder. A person can get used to that. I’m too worn out to shovel a driveway. I’m moving to Manchester.”
Manchester, VT is becoming a haven of sorts for what are becoming known as “sandbirds,” a term for people who live in Florida during the summer months, but move north for the milder winters. As one of the southern-most towns in the state, Manchester is often the first stop for Floridians who don’t like the look of Bennington, but are too tired to get to Dorset.
“I love it here,” says newly transplanted Manchester resident Gary “Gator” Stewart. “There’s no ocean tryin’ ta kill ya, no major predators tryin’ ta kill ya, and no winter storm warnings this week. The only thing that ever really tries ta kill ya is the mountain. And I may be in my seventies, but I think I can still outrun a mountain.”
Vermont, for the most part, has welcomed the sandbirds, opening up specialty “Florida Food” restaurants and happily taking in those tourist dollars. But are they accepted as true members of the community?
“Hell no,” says lifelong Manchester resident Agnes LaRoque. “My family’s lived here for a hundred and twenty years, and we still aren’t considered full residents. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to welcome our guests. And besides, they all leave in the summer anyway.”
For the sandbirds, summer is a time to fly home and enjoy the beach. But for now, and until this long winter is over, Vermont is more than happy to welcome anyone who, for whatever reason, thinks that the winters here will be more enjoyable than wherever they are from.