With Winter Park being adjacent to Disney World, one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the country, it is often eclipsed by the fireworks next door. However, if natural environments and green spaces are on your agenda, this lush oasis with its phenomenal weather and amazing central park area Winter Park is nothing short of a nature lover’s paradise.
So many of our McKinley residents call Winter Park home, and while we know, we are always excited to share what makes this gem so special. The best way to do that is to ask an expert, and in this case that expert is Clyde Moore aka I LUV Winter Park. This local promoter celebrates all things Winter Park in funny and intriguing ways. Because their passion matches our own for this amazing area, and their expertise can only enhance any traveler’s experience, McKinley Living decided to interview them to learn what drives their passion, why they love their city, and how our residents can follow all the cool things they do. Clyde is now an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty and LUVs sharing his knowledge about the area with new arrivals, promoting the community to them. He can be reached at 407.539.3977 or ILUVWinterPark@earthlink.net. Without further ado, let’s get to our interview with Clyde.
WINTER PARK EXPERT PROFILE: I LUV WINTER PARK
McKinley Living: First off, ILuvWinterPark is an excellent love note, resource, and guide to Winter Park. What motivated you to start this project?
Clyde: It actually started off very differently than what it has become. I think lots of the best things in life do that. Originally, I wanted to have a website which was the antithesis of the big deal sites. It’s such a horrible strategy to try to get new customers by offering 50, 60, even 70 percent or more off your regular prices. Even Groupon has changed a lot from that original proposition, but that was what they were doing at the time. So my thing was going to be to get Local small businesses to offer a deal, but nothing so extreme. It was to be enticing because it was Local, at your doorstep. The general thought process is that if you are nearby, you don’t have to offer such a drastic deal to get someone to try you. There was going to be more after that. While the small businesses I was speaking with weren’t getting excited about that specifically, they kept referring to the way I was promoting the effort on social media. So, it wasn’t long before I began actually doing social media for Local businesses, helping them to develop marketing strategies to stand out. Over time, as I was doing I LUV Winter Park, I began including them in my posts and then others approached me about getting involved simply with I LUV Winter Park, that social media platform. I also had I LUV Park Avenue, another vehicle to use in many instances. Then, probably 2017 or 2018, I began being approached by real estate brokers planting the seed I LUV Winter Park should become a real estate effort. I didn’t want that. Over the years, I have had quite a few people tell me my efforts with I LUV Winter Park led them to become a Local resident. They said they actually moved to the community because of my social media presentation of it. That was pretty awesome. But it was important to me it did not change dramatically, other than the opportunities something else may present for it. So, the last few years, I LUV Winter Park has very much become what I most want it to be: It’s the post card, or the best of our community. It’s pretty pictures of our LUVly parks and thoroughfares, of events, of our wonderful small businesses, of the changes which happen throughout the year.
McKinley Living: In your introductory blog post, you mention, “Winter Park is the sort of community where neighbors are quick to act during difficult times.” It’s been a rough year; what are some moments of solidarity in the community that have given you hope?
Clyde: When you live in a community which receives accolades, there will always be some who will want to take shots at it, highlight something they perceive as a negative. This is a community which has lots of wealthy residents. Yet, it is also a community with residents across the socio-economic spectrum. There are lots of people in this community who have lots of money who are as salt of the earth as anyone you have ever met. There are efforts going on right now in this community, designed to lift people up, the people behind them desiring to remain in the background. This past year has stunk no matter where you live. In Winter Park, lots of people have swung into action to help our Local small businesses, aid our fellow Local residents via community efforts. There’s one story which has stuck in my mind, though I do not know all the details, who the benefactor was. One of our Local small businesses, The Ancient Olive, organized a small farmers market in the courtyard outside their doors. They invited some of the vendors who usually participated in the Winter Park Farmers Market, which had yet to resume. They had a pretty good turnout, yet the vendors were still left with lots and lots of produce. A Local overheard a conversation between one of the owners with one of the vendors, the vendor saying they all had about $5,000 worth of produce they needed to sell. The resident purchased the remaining produce on the spot and donated it to a Local food bank. That’s the sort of thing most people will never know about. But this is the sort of community where it happens regularly. The people here are wonderful.
McKinley Living: Starting with breakfast through to dinner, what’s the perfect day of meals in Winter Park?
Clyde: Oh, Lord, I know I will leave out some favorites and I apologize! Winter Park was sort of a foodie place when my life partner and I moved here in 2006, but it is that much more so today. We have lots and lots of great restaurants. Breakfast, four places quickly come to mind. There’s Linda’s Winter Park Diner which has been here in one form or another since the late 1940s. Then, there’s Bagel King, which has been here since 1977, still a family-owned business run by the founder’s daughters. On Park Avenue, lots will head to The Briarpatch Restaurant or Croissant Gourmet, but I think they should also consider New General Store – a great coffee spot, as well as breakfast – and George’s Café, which relocated to North Park Avenue right as the Covid Pandemic hit last year and is a yummy go-to for both breakfast and lunch. Lunch, I’m probably heading to Bosphorous – Turkish food – or Pannullo’s, 310 Park South or maybe Manzano’s. I’d go right to dinner, but we should not forget happy hour! The Wine Room is amazing for gatherings of all kinds, but for happy hour specifically, my partner and I tend to jump back and forth between Bosphorous – EVERYTHING is HALF OFF from 4 – 7 – and Garp & Fuss in The Hidden Garden Courtyard. It’s like our Cheers. For dinner, Prato is fantastic, as is Tabla – I’m a sucker for Indian food – Blu on The Avenue for fish or Umi for Japanese. Cocina 214 and nearby Pepe’s Cantina are yummy Mexican spots. Our food choices are MANY!
McKinley Living: Your Instagram page is so colorful and bright, just like Winter Park. Where are your favorite picturesque spots in town?
Clyde: There are picturesque spots and then there are picturesque spots at certain times of year. In Winter Park, that goes beyond Christmas lights and other decorations at certain times of the year. While I am regularly around to take photos of Central Park, Mead Botanical Gardens, Kraft Azalea Gardens and other spots with water views, I know that each September / October I will be looking for a great shot of one of the Silk Floss trees along Park Avenue or Morse Boulevard, will be around Kraft Azalea Garden a few times between February and April for nesting and hatching of Snowy White Egrets. But I think my favorite seasonal photo opportunity is the blooming of the Tabebeuia trees. First the purple / pink and then the glorious golden version. There’s one specific tree on Via Tuscany which captures the attention of every Local photographer every March or April. It is huge and when it blooms, it glows. It just happens to be in front of my favorite house, with my favorite boat house in back. In Central Park, my favorite spot has to be the peacock fountain in the Central Park rose garden. Dedicated to Elizabeth Buckley, it’s there due to the Peacock Project launched by Local John Michael Thomas for his Eagle Scout Project. They were students together at Saint Margaret Mary on Park Avenue. He had to raise $70,000 to make it happen and it seems like that gorgeous fountain, now, has always been there.
McKinley Living: What are some things you love about Winter Park that you have to live here to understand?
Clyde: When you live here, you truly see Winter Park differently. I have lived in other small communities, but none matches the feel, history, personality of Winter Park. There are so many people who were born here who have never left. But what’s even more impressive, even more tells you about the character of this community, are those who grew up here, leave to go elsewhere and then return to raise their own families. I call them Winter Park boomerangs and there are lots of them. When my partner and I first moved here in 2006, we bought a house we had considered remodeling. After living in it a while, we decided we were not up for the challenge. Having moved from South Florida just 6 months earlier, I told my partner I was going to ease us into the process of selling by listing it on Craigslist. The next morning, first thing, I had an email from a woman talking like she and her husband were going to buy our house. I thought they must be flakes and didn’t bother responding until noon. We talked on the phone and again, she talked like they were going to buy our house. They came to look at it at 5 o’clock that evening and were there for easily an hour, talking like they were going to buy our house. They left and within 15 minutes called back to see if they could bring their parents by to see the house. She had grown up in Maitland, just north of Winter Park and he grew up a mile and a half from the house. By the time they left that night, less than 24 hours from when I had put the house on Craigslist, we were shaking on a deal. Both had grown up here but left, lived in Boston and Seattle, knew they wanted to return to Winter Park to raise their family and wanted to live in that specific neighborhood. I look back on that and laugh, mostly because it’s such a quintessentially perfect Winter Park story. Winter Park is the sort of community where you know your neighbors, look out for them. When someone has a tragedy, there is often a large group of neighbors interested in launching an effort to help, if they can. It’s a story book, in so many ways. It’s perfect Americana. It’s LUVly.
McKinley Living: Finally, we strive to share exciting and unique local activities for our residents to try. What are some of your favorite Winter Park hidden gems?
Clyde: Winter Park has lots of annual events I anticipate each year. It’s been challenging the past year, given the impact of the Covid virus. Things are starting to get back to normal, and that makes me very happy. During a regular year, the first big event of the year is always the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. It is always scheduled for the first full third weekend of the month in March. It’s considered one of the top 10 art festivals in the country. Next, for me, is then Dinner on the Avenue. Dinner on the Avenue is a big party, with over 160 tables of Locals, each table designed with a unique theme. The event lasts for four hours and is always fun, hysterical. I never fail to be amazed by the creativity of my friends and neighbors. This is in early April. In late April, delayed til the fall this year, is the Winter Park Paint Out, featuring over 20 plein air artists painting scenes all around the community. Some of those actually sell on the spot, but most will then be hung on the walls at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, available for sale. Summer here can be like winter up north, but things pick back up in the fall. The Winter Park Autumn Art Festival takes place each October. The Christmas season in Winter Park is then highlighted by Christmas in the Park, the first Thursday in December. The Morse Museum of American Art, home to the largest collection of Tiffany glass anywhere on the planet, brings a collection of their oldest windows out to be displayed in Central Park. Lit from behind, they can be viewed as the Bach Festival Choir & Orchestra serenade the attendees. Winter on the Avenue, with Christmas tree lighting and Santa Claus arrival typically occurs the following night, the Winter Park Olde Town Christmas Parade the following day. Two of the quirky Christmas time events I enjoy are when Santa is carried about Winter Park residential streets on a Winter Park Fire Department fire engine and then A Tuba Christmas, when an ensemble for 40 or so tuba players will play Christmas carols in Central Park. It’s amazing how LUVly Christmas carols can be played only on tubas!