Balancing old and new

Cindy Glover


One of the first things I learned working with our founder Barry Friedman was to add at least 5 minutes to our ETA if we’re walking anywhere in Lakeland – and double that if it’s near one of the coffee houses he frequents. Barry is well-known and beloved in this community and it’s a near certainty that someone will greet him and want to chat.

It is a little daunting, following in his editing footsteps as a relative newcomer to Lakeland. Barry’s news judgment is informed by more than 40 years of living and working here, experiencing the city’s growing pains and big stories while writing or editing news about them. My news judgment is driven by an insatiable curiosity about my adopted hometown and a deep respect for the people who have made it a desirable place to live.

We’re not sure exactly what mix of our readers are newcomers or longtime residents, but it stands to reason that our audience includes both – particularly if they found us through the great newcomers’ guide our executive director Trinity Laurino spearheaded. 

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that only 79.9% of Lakeland residents are living in the same house they were in one year ago. Apparently 10% have moved within Polk County over the past year, 4% have come from elsewhere in Florida, 5% have come from another state, and 1.1% have arrived from a different country.

I was pondering those statistics as I read about the Texas Cattle Company’s amazing reopening last Thursday, just seven weeks after a fire badly damaged the 50-year-old eatery. The community’s support for the landmark business and its 90 employees with the “Steak by the Lake” fundraiser while it was closed, and the record-breaking turnout on its first night back, are part of what makes Lakeland so special.

Across the street, on the site where the Poor Porker used to serve its acclaimed beignets, city residents have also embraced a new business – Unfiltered Lakeland. The cozy bohemian coffee house has a design-your-own-hat bar and a marketplace featuring products from local vendors and artists. Founders Geanie Folder and her son Tray Towles wrote an emotional Facebook post this week thanking city residents for their “overwhelming response” since it opened on Feb. 25.

(LkldNow is hosting an informal meet-up at Unfiltered Lakeland next Tuesday at 11 a.m. so readers can get to know me and wish Barry well before he and his wife head to Spain for six weeks.)

Growth and change are never easy, but the coexistence and success of these neighboring businesses at 735 and 801 E. Main Street respectively suggest that our city has room for both old and new, for tradition and innovation – that is, if city planners can figure out how to keep traffic moving. (We’ll be sure to keep reporting on that for everyone’s sake.)

Lakeland’s ‘Excellent’ Recycling Stats Help the City’s Bottom Line

Truck-mounted cameras and warning letters help keep the contamination rates low and increase the dollars the city generates from recycling.

One Week Left to Enroll 3- and 4-year-olds in Free Preschool Programs

Polk County Public Schools has boosted early learning capacity from 1,700 to 2,000; spaces are first-come, first-served.

City’s Commercial Garbage Customers Can Recycle to Create Fuel

Businesses will pay the same rate to recycle waste as they would to have it dumped at the county landfill.

Polk Schools Celebrate Seven National Merit Scholarship Finalists

The students are among the top 1% of scholars in the country. Five of the seven live in Lakeland.


Florida Poly starts building its third residence hall | Florida Construction News

High school senior from Lakeland is flying a plane built by Central Florida Aerospace Academy students in Sun ’n Fun’s evening Sunset Aerial Circus shows | The Ledger

Miguel Cabrera gets key to the city of Lakeland in his final Spring Training game after 15 years with the Tigers | WXYZ Detroit

Lakeland drag performer uninvited from speaking at an Orlando high school after state ed department threatens investigation | ABC Action News

Texas Cattle Company reopens to a record night seven weeks after fire closed it | Fox 13 News

One of Florida’s top high school softball players is a seventh grader at Lakeland Christian School | Fox 13 News

2023 Sun ’n Run 5K | Saturday | 7 a.m. | Lakeland Linder International Airport
Lace up your sneakers for one of Florida’s most unique 5K road races during the 49th annual Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo. It will begin on the terminal ramp, flanked by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and continue across runways and taxiways. During the run, you’ll see the launching of over 20 hot air balloons. Registration is $40 and must be done in advance. Proceeds benefit the Women in Aviation Lakeland Chapter and the Lakeland Aeroclub for high school students.

Spring Plant Sale | Saturday | 8-11 a.m. | City of Lakeland Nursery
UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteers will be selling edible, native, Florida-friendly, and citrus plants. Admission is free. Proceeds benefit horticulture programming in Polk County. The city of Lakeland Nursery is at 4532 Highway 98 S.; turn off U.S. 98 to the Oak Hill Cemetery and take an immediate left to get to the city nursery.

Historic Lake Morton Home and Garden Tour | Saturday | 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center
The popular annual event will feature seven homes, two gardens, and a neighborhood gathering space. Homeowners and greeters will be on hand to welcome participants and answer questions. Admission is $17 and is capped at 500 guests, so early registration is recommended. Proceeds support neighborhood beautification and activities.

About 300 volunteers spent the morning picking up trash, clearing vacant lots, and painting houses in the North Lake Wire neighborhood on Saturday. The “Compassion Day” event included Lakeland Police, the City of Lakeland, the Dream Center, All Saints Episcopal Church, New Beulah Missionary Baptist Church, the Salvation Army and other groups. Photo: Lakeland Police Department

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.