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It’s Kis-sĭm-mee. Get it right! June 26, 2009

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Journeys.
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It’s Kis-sĭm-mee.  Not Kis-seem-mee.  But Kis-SIM-mee.  And I will practice it, until I get it right, because it’s the hometown of some friends of mine, and it’s a wonderful place. 

You know… there are only few places in the world, in my opinion, that are worth dwelling in.   The town where I went to college is one.  Rumor has it that a man from France — a painter — was travelling across the United States, came to the little town where my university is located, and stopped for a few nights.  Rumor also has it that this man decided after a few nights in this little town, that he would stay for six months.  Rumor further has it that he then decided to live there, indefinitely.  And his comment to everyone was, “you should live here, for at least six months, so you can truly experience this place.”

Well, Kissimmee, Florida, is one of those places you should live in, for at least 6 months.

It has totally changed my perspective of Florida. 

Call me a noob, but I bet 96% of the people living on this continent have the same perspective about Florida that I’ve always had.  I’ve always thought:  Florida is Miami, with movie stars and big fancy houses. Florida is NASA and space shuttle launches.  Florida is beaches, and horribly ugly hurricane seasons.  Florida is… the Mouse, and all that entails.  And to most of us, that’s all Florida is.

But did you know that Florida is… cows? 

It’s true.  Florida has quite the Brahman cow population.  And it’s right there is Kissimmee.

And did you know that Florida is rodeos?  And cowboys?  Or maybe I should say, “Kowboys.”  That’s the team name for the Osceola High School located in Kissimmee.  And both my friends, Faye and Rich, told me about marching band practice being held in the old Silver Spurs Arena, and how it had a certain “aroma,” especially during the warmer months.

And did you know that Florida is horse country?  Faye tells me that a lot of Kentucky horses are brought to Kissimmee during the winter months, and I can understand why. 

And did you know that Florida is… motorcycles? and suped up cars? and classic cars?

“Well,” you might say, “that could be anywhere.”  Yes, that’s true.  There are a lot of places in this world that sport motorcycles, and suped up cars and classic cars.  But there is not another place on this planet like Old Town.

We visited Old Town on Saturday night, and watched the parade of classic cars, which was a sight to behold.  It’s a weekly event in Kissimmee, and it’s well attended.  You can find information about it here: http://www.old-town.com/.  It’s yet another reason you should live here, for at least six months.  Maybe longer!

So why was I in Kissimmee?  I mentioned in my last post that I was traveling there to see an old friend from college, Rich, and also meet his wife, Connie.  Rich and Connie were not able to show me around, so Faye gave me the honor of seeing the things that she grew up with, the same things that Rich grew up with.  And I was thrilled!  It was a rare opportunity to peek into the real life of a small town.

We ate at local restaurants the entire weekend, though we had opportunities to eat at all of the major eateries known across the country.  I’m going to leave our dining to another post all its own, because in this post I don’t want to talk about what I ate, but rather what I saw.

I saw a small town succeeding in hanging onto its downtown.  Granted, Faye told me that when she was young, the buildings weren’t as colorful as they are now.  But I noticed on this trip there weren’t many that were vacant.  That was encouraging to me, because one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen, is a downtown area that is mostly void of life, and stands forgotten, surrounded by multiple shopping centers and/or malls.   Not so here!  I saw activity everywhere, with new stores amongst older establishments.

I saw the Kissimmee airport, though small, yet still in use.  I saw the old post office, and many other places that Faye could name quickly and easily.  Some were still the way they were when she was in high school, and some were buildings being used for new purposes, but still in use.  It was a neat drive; I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I saw Lake “Toho,” which is what the locals call it, and though I didn’t get any pictures of it, you can learn more about it here:  http://tohopekaliga.uslakes.info/.  A beautiful place, and since I love the water, it just made Kissimmee even more special!

But the thing I found most fascinating, and loved the most (other than the Spanish moss hanging in the live oak trees) was the Monument of States.  I was so impressed with that!  Here’s a little town, willing to draw in the rest of the country in a special way, to say, “please come be a part of our town.”  You just don’t see that, nowadays, hardly anywhere.  Yet, I stood before this massive structure, and was suddenly aware of the grace and the charm that this little town has, and the open-hearted feeling of welcome the covers the whole place.

The Monument of States in Kissimmee, Florida

Kissimmee, Florida, is called “The Heart of Florida.”  By location, yes, it is the “heart,” or central portion, of the state of Florida.   But by nature, I believe it also carries the “Heart” of the State of Florida, in a way that no other city in the Sunshine State can. 

Come see for yourself, even if you can’t stay for six months.



1. Faye - June 26, 2009

If only we’d known when we were kids what Kissimmee would grow into and how much it would change so quickly! We would have captured a lot more memories with Super 8 and 16mm and on Kodachrome! One of these days we’ll take another trip and I’ll drive you all over the state, showing you the places you mentioned, and some of the lesser known — Kenansville, Yeehaw Junction, Stuart, and Pahokee among others.

Oh, and up to Ocala, where the horse farms are — Kissimmee doesn’t get to claim that honor. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share my home state with you. Seeing it through your eyes makes it amazing all over again.

2. The Cookie Lady - June 26, 2009

Thanks, Faye. It IS amazing. I hope that Rich gets to read this one, and the other posts I’m doing about our trip.

I would LOVE to see Stuart, since I had an uncle that lived there most of his life. And I gotta tell you, he was born and bred South Carolinian style! So if HE found a home in Florida, it must be a place full of heart! :0) And now I know for myself, it certainly is.

I DO want to go there with you again. I can’t stay away from Joe’s for very long! Ha ha…

See you in Kis-SIM-mee!

Faye - June 26, 2009

Haha! Joe’s! Just to let you know, they have locations in Virginia: Chesapeake, Fairfax, Fredricksburg, Hampton and Norfolk.

My dad lived in Stuart when he met my mom, who lived in Pahokee. All down by Lake Okeechobee (where the catfish came from.)

We’ll explore. I like using the back roads and not even touching an interstate. I’ll show you Bok Tower in Lake Wales and Spook Hill where your car rolls UPhill. Not to mention St. Augustine and Daytona, Tampa, Sanibel Island… so much to see!

3. The Cookie Lady - June 26, 2009

You like back roads???

Hoo boy, you are in trouble now! I LOVE taking back roads! There’s always lots more to see. More Spanish moss, right? :0)

Hey, now don’t go telling me there’s a Joe’s up here! For me, there’s only one. At least, for now… I’m sure the others have their own great flavor, but THAT Joe’s is the one I saw first, so it gets preferential treatment.

Yes, Faye, let’s go ‘splorin’!

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