Saturday, January 8 2022

Scott and Nancy MacDonald are delighted to be back on the golf course and pickleball courts at the Four Lakes Golf Club in Winter Haven.

Like many Canadian snowbirds, the couple didn’t spend the winter months at their Florida home last year. Determined not to spend another winter in Ontario, they managed to fly south and have their vehicle shipped as it was not yet known when the land border would reopen.

The MacDonalds arrived on October 15 and took a dip in their golf and pickleball schedule.

Related: Canada’s snowbirds line up to head south as border with the United States opens

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“We really, really missed it last year,” said Scott MacDonald, 58. I experienced 56 winters at home and was so happy to retire and start spending my winters in Florida. It was difficult for both of us to spend another winter at home. We’re both absolutely delighted to be back. There is no place we would rather be.

As MacDonald spoke on Tuesday afternoon, the temperature was 65 in Winter Haven and 30 in his Canadian home in Kingston, Ontario, across the St. Lawrence River from upstate New York. .

The United States and Canada closed crossings along their shared border in the spring of 2020 in response to the spread of COVID-19. Traveling south by vehicle was not an option last winter for Canadian snowbirds, although some chose to fly to Florida and have their cars delivered.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Canadian snowbirds remained in their homelands last winter.

Previously: Canadian snowbirds with homes in Polk County hope for land border opening

Canada opened its border for vehicle crossings in August, but the United States did not return the favor until November 8.

Scott MacDonald retired two and a half years ago, and he and Nancy have become part-time Floridians for the winter of 2019-2020. As concerns about COVID surfaced, they returned to Canada earlier than expected in March 2020.

The couple reportedly traveled to Florida for the winter of last year, Scott said, except Nancy had health issues. He came to Winter Haven in January to check out his house in Four Lakes, but ended up returning after less than three weeks for his daughter’s wedding.

As fall approached, Canadian snowbirds eagerly awaited the date the United States would reopen its border crossings. The announcement came days before the MacDonalds took off south, and they decided to stick to their plans rather than cancel their plane tickets and get off in the car.

Canadians crossing US border checkpoints should be fully immunized, just like those entering the country. Scott MacDonald said he and his wife both received AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine, a version not offered in the United States, and they were unsure whether U.S. border guards would recognize them as fully vaccinated.

In 2020: Canadian government urges snowbirds to stay home

“So we didn’t know what the rules would be, entering the United States at that time, or what types of vaccines would be acceptable,” he said. “There were too many unknowns. We decided to stick to the plans.

MacDonald said the Canadian snowbirds he knows appear to be evenly split between those who flew to Florida and those who waited and drove in November.

Another Canadian couple, Stephen and Ann Harkness, chose to wait and fly to Florida from their primary residence in Kingston, Ontario. They headed south for Winter Haven a day after the border opened on November 8.

The couple, who also own a home at the Four Lakes Golf Club, have been wintering in Polk County for 17 years, with the exception of last winter. Between the closure of the land border and concerns about COVID, they stayed in Ontario.

Ann Harkness said she and other Canadian snowbirds are eager to migrate south this fall.

“They were just biting until that border opened so they didn’t have to fly,” she said. “And it didn’t make any sense why they could fly but couldn’t drive, you know, when we’re all fully vaccinated. That was the other thing. But anyway, the rules are the rules.

Harkness said some Canadians chose a third option – cross the border by helicopter near Niagara Falls and have their vehicles shipped to New York City to head south.

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“We play (golf) every day, or almost every day – he plays six days a week and I play five,” Harkness said. “So it’s just great to be back in pleasant temperatures. We had no snow when we left, but it was starting to get chilly.

Bob and Lois Slack, also winter residents of Four Lakes, have decided not to wait for the border crossings to reopen. The couple arranged to fly to Florida and have their vehicle shipped.

Bob Slack said the shipping cost around $ 1,400.

“We just decided that we didn’t need to cancel plane tickets, cancel our vehicle shipping and so on,” he said. “So we said, ‘Let’s continue’. It will be a new experience for us.

The Slacks, who live in Athens, Ontario, have been wintering Florida for over 20 years. Bob Slack said Canadians support the option of driving in the United States after 20 months of the land border being closed.

“Well for the snowbirds it was a relief,” he said. “It was great. Now, those who take short trips or day trips, it’s not so good because to get back to Canada at that time you have to have been tested for COVID 72 hours. before heading back and coming back to Canada, so we’re hoping they get rid of it soon.

One of the usual winter highlights for Canadians in Polk County is the annual Snowbird Extravaganza, which has been held in late January at the RP Funding Center since 2003. The pandemic has forced this year’s rally to be canceled, and the event will be missed for a second year in a row due to continued uncertainty over the virus, said Scott Sloman, deputy head of the facility.

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Sloman estimated that the one-day rally attracts 15,000 to 20,000 visitors. He said the absence of some Canadian snowbirds since spring 2020 has had a noticeable effect on sales of other events.

“It hurt us because probably a large part of our subscriber base and our ticket buyers are from Canada, and since they are not going down, it has had an impact on our ticket sales,” he said. he declares. “We hope they pick up same day sales and move on, as opposed to the subscription sales that we depend on.”

Gary White can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @ garywhite13.


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