ELLENTON -- Colony Cove may just be the Manatee County community most representative of the entire United States.
It has a club for nearly all 50 states.
Colony Cove's 3,800 fun-loving souls have plenty of choices: 133 clubs and activities, four community halls ranging up to 13,500 square feet for social gatherings, five heated swimming pools, tennis courts, a marina, fishing docks, and more.
Aspiring directors and actors satisfy their creative urges through the Great Pretenders troupe, while singers have the Happy Notes club, and shutter bugs have a camera club.
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Not surprisingly, the Friendly Social Club is the largest at Colony Cove with 850 members.
"You can be as busy as you want or do nothing," resident Ed Gaylord said.
Colony Cove, a 55-plus manufactured home community, dates back to 1957, It was originally conceived as a church campground, but has grown and gone through a number of name changes
over the years.
Today, the emphasis is on friendship and the active lifestyle.
Recently, members of the New York Club were having a steak cookout at the pavilion on the Manatee River, complete with squirt gun battles and music played by DJ "Buffalo" Bob Enstrom.
Why do they call him Buffalo Bob? He's from Buffalo, you see.
Residents seemed eager to brag about their original home towns.
Ralph Fenton said he is from Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Jim Wood volunteered that he is from Lake Placid, home of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
And club president Verne Killian says he is originally from Illinois.
Anyone find it ironic that an Illinoisian would be leading a club of New Yorkers?
"Yep, everyone," Killian said, as he paused from cooking the steaks.
Resident after resident say that what keeps them at Colony Cove is the friendliness of the place, and all the activities.
"I don't see me going anywhere else," Buffalo Bob said. "You don't need to go anywhere for vacation. We have the river, the lakes, it's all here."
Colony Cove sits on 538 acres north and south of U.S. 301, just east of the Ellenton Premium Outlets.
Equity Lifestyle Properties recently acquired the property and is drawing kudos from residents for its efforts to improve Colony Cove.
One of the most popular changes was the addition of a farm along the Manatee River where residents can have their own garden patch.
Equity is planning an expansion of the 8,000-square-foot pavilion and the decking around the community pool, said Sara McFarland, senior regional manager.
"They really take care of each other," McFarland said of Colony Cove residents. "It's like a community of best friends."
Lynn Mercier, an Ohio native, wanted to get involved when she moved to Colony Cove and began attending homeowner association meetings.
She is now in her third term as president.
"It's such a great place that you're not thinking about moving," she said.
There is also a food pantry and loan closets for members of the community and their guests.
"There is anything you would need for your visiting grandchildren," said Gaylord.
The medical loan closet provides wheelchairs, walkers and crutches. A separate loan closet is geared to accommodating young visitors with baby equipment, bicycles, car seats and inflatable beds.
The homeowner association and Equity each have programs that can financially help residents who get into a bind.
Another large club is the golf cart group, which recently held a golf cart olympics. Among its other activities: golf cart movie night, golf cart bowling, golf cart croquet, pool crawl, and holiday-decorated cart parade.
Golf cart club member Vickie Cochran has customized her cart as a 1934 Ford, complete with a greyhound ornament on the hood, and rhinestone-encrusted grill.
Cochran introduces a visitor to Marie Overgaard, who has lived at Colony Cove for 26 years.
Overgaard met her husband, Bob, when both served in the U.S. Navy, and they married in 1953. And they are perfectly content at Colony Cove.
"I love it," Overgaard said. "This is one of the largest parks and has the most to offer residents."
No wonder, then, that many residents sport Colony Cove's motto: "Living in the Cove and Loving It."
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.