When you're stuck in the cold and dreary weather of the winter season, you'd be wise to be one of the hundreds of families that have flocked to the Pinecraft neighborhood of Sarasota, Florida for some rest and recreation.
However, these vacationers aren't the typical people you'd see in your suburban neighborhood.
Women are wearing long, modest dresses, white bonnets, while the men are adorning shaggy beards and overalls. They are Amish and Mennonite families, who've traveled to the beachside location from across the US for nearly 100 years.
Although they live vastly different lives from the general public, these families were able to let loose and bend the rules they're usually told to follow.
Back in February, photographer Dina Litovsky was able to capture snapshots of their relaxing holiday, and said the Amish and Mennonite families couldn't be nicer.
"What struck me was how welcoming everybody was and how friendly everybody is," Litovsky said. "Maybe it’s because they’re also on vacation and I’m not coming into their home and pointing a camera at them. We’re kind of both on somebody else’s territory. People, in general, on vacations are in a good mood."
"We usually see Amish in terms of, you know, the buggy … where they’re living in Pennsylvania, Ohio," she continued. "So we have this image of the Amish that we see most of the time. So it was different; they weren’t working, they were on vacation, they were just hanging out in the street riding bikes – just a kind of festive atmosphere."
The majority of Amish and Mennonities who make the trek to Pinecraft typically travel by bus from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, and is an event in itself.
Visitors will gather around the vehicle to welcome their friends and family, or bid them farewell. This vacation spot allows them to interact with people they normally wouldn't get the opportunity to.
"Everybody said they loved this place because they got to interact with other Amish and Mennonites that they don’t usually get to do in their communities. Their communities are pretty closed," Litovsky said.
Litovsky said that while most of the groups prefer to stay together, they were frequently seen out and about, going to ice cream shops and restaurants, enjoying the fresh air on their tricycles, and participating in a fish fry.
"A lot of things were happening outside," the photographer explained. "Everything is happening in the street; there’s really a rich street life."
Unlike in their closed-off communities, these excited tourists stay in homes with electricity, ride motorized tricycles, and even wear flip flops.
Although Amish and Mennonite are similar religions, they do have their differences. Mennonites have more "liberal" beliefs, and have begun embracing technology and the use of motorized vehicles. Women also wear more patterned clothing as opposed to block-colored clothing and men sport less facial hair.
However, both religions both value simplicity, peace, self-reliance and absence of anything that can distract them from their tight-knit community.
According to Visit Sarasota, Amish and Mennonite farmers first arrived in the Southern Florida region "to use the land for agricultural purposes, primarily to grow celery, a common Amish crop," adding that while the soil wasn't as good as expected, the good weather persuaded them to return for vacations.
"They set up the community of Pinecraft, a very small area of about 500 tiny homes in a planned grid at the intersection of Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street – occasional, highly competitive auctions attest to the stiff competition for getting gone of the lots. Few homeowners live here year-round, many homes are rented to others within the order."
"The community used to be removed from the city of Sarasota, but the city has grown up around it. The Amish community of Sarasota is more liberal than its northern counterparts."
Although it may seem like a surprise for the Amish to be seen outside of their communities, let alone use technology, every teenager participates in Rumspringa.
This in when they go live with the "English" and decide whether or not they wish to return to their families, or remain in the outside world. Should they come back, they'll have an adult baptism, where they renounce their sins.
Litovsky said that aside from being taken off guard from the high number of cell phones in the Pinecraft neighborhood, she wanted to make sure she represented both communities well.
"What I wanted to avoid is kind of just exoticizing them, just because they were wearing outfits that signaled they were Amish," she shared. "I wanted to make sure the photo would be interesting if you were wearing regular clothes, adding that she wanted her pictures to ask "What is going on in the photo? Rather than: Who is in the photo?"
"I had absolutely no problem shooting; maybe it was because I was just alone, just me, no reporter, one camera. I didn’t look like a big photojournalist. I was very respectful; I talked to people, asked questions," Litosky added.
"Everything was interesting."
[H/T: Daily Mail]