At ABC Action News, we know it's the combination of all the communities that make Tampa Bay great to live in. That's why we've started a new series of reporting highlighting good things happening around town, discovering cool gems you may not know about, and uncovering the big news events impacting those areas.
On Friday, the Good Morning Tampa Bay team focused on Winter Haven.
Winter Haven has 50 lakes. The northern chain includes nine lakes and the southern chain includes 16. They're all connected by a series of canals, the first of which was built in 1915.
Most of the lakes in Winter Haven are solution lakes, which means that they formed in the same manner as sinkholes form – through the dissolution of limestone and the eventual collapse of the overlying land surface.
When you look outside Snively Elementary in Winter Haven, you'll notice bright colors on the walls and a blossoming garden.
It's all thanks to recent partnerships to help beautify the area, making the school feel more warm and welcoming.
"We really wanted to bring home that warm feeling, that I want to be at school feeling, and we really wanted to increase our attendance. And we felt that played a large role," explained Principal Diane Roseborough.
Honeycomb Bread Bakers and Adler's Burgers are just two of the successful businesses located in Winter Haven.
“I would like to say in my lifetime, to be able to see this, it's just absolutely fantastic. I never thought I would see the change that I've seen,” said Christine Samuel, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the City of Winter Haven.
She’s helping leaders foster a more diverse workplace, making everyone feel like they belong, facilitating and transforming community relationships, and fighting for equity.
A new housing development is starting to take shape right in downtown Winter Haven.
It's next to downtown's brewery, Grove Roots, and will have one and two-bedroom apartments.
"There aren't a lot of people living in downtown right now. But we think a lot of people want to." Bud Strang, CEO, 610, LLC said. "So, this is the first project of any size in decades, so we're really excited about it for the city."
Haven — a place of safety; refuge. That's what those behind downtown Winter Haven's latest mural hope it will represent.
We caught up with Muralist Gillian Fazio as she was painting flowers on the wall of Allen Ulch Construction.
"It has lily pads. It has water lilies, butterflies, all of the things that are kind of make you think of Winter Haven and the beautiful lakes here. And then it has the word haven so that everybody can kind of take ownership of that wall," explained Fazio.
A big project at Winter Haven's Martin Luther King, Jr. Park also calls for some major upgrades on a main road.
Lake Silver Drive is under construction right now but when finished will be considered a "complete street."
It's a $1.4 million project between FDOT and the City of Winter Haven.
Winter Haven's Martin Luther King, Jr. park is full of history.
Back in the 1800s the railroad came through this area and brought visitors and tourists, according to Andy Palmer, City of Winter Haven Parks Planning and Strategic Initiatives Manager.
Today, it's home to the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team and it still remains a place for events and brings the community together but it's getting a much-needed facelift.
Born in Haiti, Elysee Jean-Charles moved to Virginia Beach in 1983 before eventually relocating to Winter Haven to advance his career.
“I just knew and know what I left behind, so I pushed myself to strive to be the best that I can be,” said Elysee Jean-Charles.
Jean-Charles is the owner of the only Outback Steakhouse located in Winter Haven.
From the pyramid to one ski, to even barefoot, the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team pulls out all the tricks on Lake Silver. A show that started at the old Cypress Gardens theme park in 1943 continues on in Winter Haven on the third Saturday of every month.
Enjoy an urban escape with your family this weekend by visiting South Lake Howard Nature Park in Winter Haven. The paths are easy to follow and you’ll enjoy a nice mix of sun and shade.
Every second Saturday of the month 18-year-old, Zachary Kirkland delivers dozens of gift bags to children at Lakeland Regional Health.
“A lot of families share, we came with nothing we weren’t expecting to come to the hospital, and this gave our kids something to entertain themselves, while they were just sitting in the hospital bed not knowing what was going on,” said Kirkland.
ike many local restaurants, Tempo 1930 in Winter haven, suffered after COVID-19 forced many people to stay at home.
“When the pandemic first hit, definitely we took a hit just like everybody else. Then we started being created and learning how we can change our business motto,” explained Omar Andreasen, owner of Tempo 1930.
More people are calling Polk County home.
According to new census population estimates, the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area had the second-highest rate of population growth in the U.S. from July 2019 to 2020 at 2.7%.
Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said more people are migrating to the smaller metro because of its focus on safety and quality of life.