SEBRING - When Rex Bond and his wife, Anne, moved to the then-spankin' new Sun 'n Lake of Sebring golf and recreation community, the big recreational deal was hunting speckled quails roaming the fields and woods.
Bond's memory of the community west of U.S. 27 and north of Sun 'N Lake Boulevard were of woods and scrubland and an old, wood-frame house sitting along the highway.
Compared to the amenities the approximately 12-square-mile family-oriented neighborhood of approximately 7,500 full-time residents homes has now, it was pretty primitive back then, he said.
The week of April 13 to 19, Sun 'n Lake, 5306 Sun 'n Lake Blvd., will host a series of activities to mark and celebrate its 40th anniversary and some of the nuances of the plaid-bell-bottom-pants days of 1974.
The week begins at 5:30 p.m., April 13, with a residents-only 40th anniversary celebration, but the remaining events are open to the public.
At 12:30 p.m., April 13, the shotgun start Sun 'n Lake 40th Anniversary Golf Tournament & Celebration begins at the Deer Run golf course. Guests and players are encouraged to wear 1970s-era clothes and there will be 70s-related gifts and events held along the course.
Cost is $30 per person with a party following at 5:30 p.m. featuring entertainment, memorabilia, a photo booth, hot rod cars and a cash bar.
Beginning at 10 a.m., April 16, the Sun 'n Lake Racquet Club is hosting a pickleball tournament for all ages and skills, including a doubles tournament. The event includes a buffet lunch and cost is $15 for club members and $20 for non-members.
Rounding out the celebrations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 19, will be the Dash & Dye 5K Color Run & Easter Festival at the Sun 'n Lake Recreation Complex, 3500 Edgewater Drive.
Runners will get "dyed" with watercolor paint as they run past color stations so that they end the run looking like Easter eggs. There will also be an Easter egg hunt, bounce houses, games, entertainment, face painting and concessions.
Bond, 86, a retired banker, said he plans to attend some of the events. He first lived in a home on the golf course side of Sunrise Drive and remembers land going for $265 an acre from the developer, the Highlands County Title and Guaranty Land Company, which bought the land from the original owners, Maxcy Development Group.
From there, the Sun 'n Lake of Sebring Improvement District was created by Highlands County April 16, 1974. The district is an independent special district, which has a governing body that is elected and oversaw the community's original 19,213 single-family homes, which was reduced to 12,400 lots by 2004 due to re-platting, vacation and conservation sites, according to the community's website.
"When we got here, there was nothing but trees and bayheads and no roads to ride on unless you had a four-wheel drive," he said. "It's certainly many times better now from a resident's standpoint. There was nothing but open space and a couple of cow pens back then."
Over the past five years, Sun 'n Lake has built, remodeled and upgraded many of its facilities.
Bob Brumfield, Sun 'n Lake code enforcement officer, said among them have been the construction of the new 10,000-square-foot clubhouse and Island View restaurant and golf area in 2009; the renovation of the community center, pool and playground in 2010; and the renovation of the Deer Run golf course in 2011 and the Turtle Run golf course in 2013.
"It's gone from a little, rural community to more of a mixture of all kinds of people. There wasn't a lot of options for kids in the past; now, there's a lot for everyone," said Brumfield, who has lived in Sun 'n Lake since 1998.
Brumfield said the community experienced a rash of foreclosures in the mid-2000s but that trend has ceased and the economic direction has shifted positively due to a lot of effort.
"There's a lot of things that happened between 2009 and 2010 which made an overall improvement with the facilities in the community," said Tenille Drury-Smith, community service director. "We honestly have the two best golf courses in the county as far as facilities...with everything we offer for all ages, there's something for everyone. Our slogan is 'It's all here, shouldn't you be?'"
The next major project for Sun 'n Lake is adding a playground at the recreation complex by 2015.
Drury-Smith said the idea for an anniversary celebration week developed in the summer of 2013 when the idea was mentioned by David Halbig, former president of the Sun 'n Lake of Sebring Improvement District.
It was put together to coincide with the annual Sun 'n Lake Easter festival and run, held April 19.
For information, see www.snldistrict.org, call (863) 382-2196.