Hotel to open for Amish, Mennonite snowbirds

- They're known for living simple lives, but the Amish and Mennonite communities in Sarasota are adding a touch of modern convenience to their lives.

Just as it has for everyone else, Florida has become a vacation destination for the Amish and Mennonite communities. It's a place they can enjoy some of the modern conveniences that they would traditionally avoid. And people who want to take in the Amish culture come to enjoy everything from food to crafts. 

"Quite a few more people come now. Our tourist season is a little longer," said Harvey Hiller. "It's like going to summer camp when you were a kid. People everywhere."

Katie Troyer has spent years photographing and writing about those who live and visit the area. 

"We are full in the wintertime. Every bed is occupied, from Christmas until March," she said. 

It's gotten so crowded with Amish and Mennonite snowbirds that the owners of the Der Dutchman restaurant are building a hotel on their property. 

By the time winter comes around, visitors from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and other northern states fill Pinecraft. It's so busy that people can barely get around, and they often can't find a place to stay. Some residents are hopeful the hotel will help alleviate those issues.

"It has 100 rooms. It has a conference center space so we can have meetings and banquets in there. It is built like most hotels," said the general manager of Der Dutchman, Jeff Miller. 

Miller said Amish, Mennonite and anyone else can stay at the hotel. It has all the modern conveniences you can imagine, including a pool and TVs. The furniture, though, requires a special touch. 

"We decorate it in the traditional style. The furniture will be made my Amish. An extra few details that will make it feel unique," said Miller. "If they are in a lodging facility that it's okay to have things around that are of modern conveniences. It's more in their home that they won't have things like that."

The hotel is slated to open at the end of 2017. 

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