EAST MANATEE -- Carl Bender and his wife, Edie, were one of the first couples to move to Rosedale Golf and Country Club, and over the past 20 years, they've watched their beloved community grow tremendously.
"The environment has changed considerably with the advent of Lakewood Ranch," Bender, 84, said. "When we moved here, State Road 70 was a two-lane highway and we had to go a distance to do our grocery shopping. We can go across the street now."
This month, Rosedale has much to celebrate. The community turns 20 years old and looks forward to an expansion of 445 homes that should be complete in the next five years.
So far, 93 homes in Rosedale Links, the new phase, have been sold, said Patrick Hogan, vice president of the Hunt Group, the origi
nal developer of Rosedale and owner of its golf club.
The Hunt Group has also brought in new builders to complete the project: John Cannon Homes, M/I Homes and Ashton Woods Homes.
Retirees from Delaware, the Benders moved to the community in 1993 for the area's beaches and the golfing. Back then, the community was much smaller and the clubhouse had not been built, but robust friendships formed almost immediately.
"We've made some very close friends and we've experienced a lot of good times together over the last 20 years," he said. "We moved here from far away and we didn't have any close relatives so we joined together."
Bender's neighbor and longtime friend Bob Johnson, 84, has also lived at Rosedale since soon after its creation. In August, Johnson and his wife, Jane, decided to downsize from their 2,700-square-foot home that they purchased in 1994 to a smaller and brand new 2,000-square-foot abode in Rosedale Links.
The couple wouldn't choose to live anywhere else.
"I think it's just a very unique community. Everybody's there to help everyone else. It's such a friendly community," Jane said.
Bob, who moved to Rosedale from the Chicago suburbs, said he hasn't noticed much change other than the new homes. "It's gotten a lot larger obviously. But it's all pretty much the same," he said.
From Thursday to Sunday, there will be a plethora of events at Rosedale to celebrate the anniversary, including a sold-out Opera Dinner and a fly-in air show and car show. The events are open to the public as well as to Rosedale residents.
"I think people are pleased that Rosedale recognizes that we're celebrating something special. That we've been here 20 years and we've done well during that period of time," Bender said. "We're very pleased with what they've done in the community."