The university students are back, the decorations are down, and the Christmas season has given way to what some Christian liturgical calendars label “ordinary time.”
In Ave Maria, we’re looking forward to an event that might seem ordinary to some — the opening of a gas station — but it’s extraordinary enough to us, given the distance we’ve had to drive for gas. Although a semi-completed gas station has been sitting on our main boulevard for years, the only progress there has been the growth of weeds as ownership of the property went round and round in a kind of Southwest Florida real estate version of the Virginia reel dance.
The grand march around the real estate circle began when Ave Maria Development sold the land to an owner who did a lot of work on the site, then went bankrupt. A bank took it over, then it failed; next, the FDIC took over the bank and sold it to another bank; and eventually that bank sold it to … Ave Maria Development, which plans to open the gas station probably by June. That’s a long way around the dance floor, but at least we’ll have a gas station.
One business that did open on schedule recently was Real Estate Ave Maria, owned by residents Bob and Erin Campbell. It’s the town’s first real estate office not affiliated with the builders or the developers.
The major league soccer club the Chicago Fire returns to Ave Maria again this year for two weeks of spring training, beginning Feb. 20. The public is welcome to watch their daily practices; for practice times, check the Ave Herald (www.aveherald.com). The Fire will also play an exhibition game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in Ave Maria. Residents are delighted to have them back, remembering with pleasure how the Fire mingled with the community in The Pub and around town when they visited last year.
Tickets are on sale for $15 for the second annual Sunshine Steak Cook Off at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, which includes a 16-ounce ribeye steak, potato and salad. So far, 15 grill teams have signed on for this popular event which served up 400 steaks in its debut last year and is expected this year to serve 800-1,000 dinners. The Family Fun Festival begins at 11 a.m. that same day featuring events, games and activities for the whole family. Buy tickets at the AMU Bookstore in the town center or call (239) 304-7032. To sign up your grill team, go to http://donahueacademy.org/sunshinestatesteakcookoff/. All proceeds support a scholarship program for students in Immokalee to attend the Rhodora Donahue Academy in Ave Maria.
As I finish up my first column about Ave Maria, the AMU students are gathering at the nearby Queen Mary Pub and I can hear them through my open window. In a short while, karaoke will start up and I’ll shut that window, but for now, I’m enjoying their laughter as they reconnect and enjoy a beer (if they are 21), greeting, as if it were extraordinarily ordinary, the gift of another year.
You can find more information on these and other stories happening in Ave Maria at the Ave Herald (www.aveherald.com) which Patricia publishes along with her husband, David Shnaider.