Sarasota Walking Tours Celebrate History on the Go

History

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 7, 2018

Rob Thierfielder loves to travel. A visitor to more than 35 countries around the globe, he hops from place to place, exploring and soaking up the history. And like any traveler, Thierfielder has his rituals. “Everywhere I’ve been,” he says, “I go on a walking tour to learn about the city.” But coming down to Sarasota, Thierfielder was “blown away,” not just by the amount of history and arts and culture to be explored, but that the arts and culture capital of the Gulf Coast had no walking tour to call its own and trumpet its story. “There was no one to tell us about the town we now live in,” he says. So Thierfielder made his own—Sarasota Walking Tours.

A native of New Jersey, it may seem odd for Thierfielder to take it upon himself to tell Sarasota’s story, but the man’s a professional. A certified international tour manager, Thierfielder has led tours through New England, parts of Canada, Denver, Vegas and some of the most celebrated national parks in the United States, including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon. Now working with Visit Sarasota, he unveiled his Sarasota tour for test runs in December and they now run at least thrice weekly.

Tours begin by the Unconditional Surrender statue on the Bayfront, with Thierfielder laying out the history of the keys and the naming of Sarasota. Walking along the Bayfront, conversation turns to growth of the city and landing of Scottish colonists in 1885 (which helps explain Thierfielder’s kilt, though just a bit). Walking through Five Points—a downtown hub since 1885—Thierfielder lets participants in on the original design behind the convergence, before stopping in the Selby Library for a brief rest stop and a gander at the 3,200-gallon aquarium housed within.

Explore the theater district and the history of the Keating Building, now home to Florida Studio Theatre, and peek inside the Church of the Redeemer where original stained glass windows remain and Thierfielder recounts the story behind the church bells, sent all the way from Germany. The real estate boom of the 1920s, the Sarasota Opera House, the history of Palm Avenue—all get a moment in the sun. Stopping at the soon-to-be-open Art Ovation Hotel, Thierfielder muses on stories yet to come. “Sarasota has a very interesting past,” he says, “starting with the Calusa Indian, all the way up to this new future that hasn’t been built yet.”

Tickets for Sarasota Walking Tours are $30 per person, with tours scheduled for every Friday and Saturday at 11am and Sundays at 1pm. Off-hour tours and private tours are available upon request, so no one has to miss out on history. “All they have to do is call me,” says Thierfielder.

Pictured: Rob Thierfielder leading the discussion (and rocking a kilt) for a group from Sarasota Walking Tours. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Walking Tours.

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