There are many important dates in the history of Tallahassee Naturally. These are highlighted below:
1986 First club outing (October 5). Affiliated with TNS.
1989 First elected officers and Annual Business Meeting. Joined AANR. Full-Moon Skinny-Dips began. "Free University" course on Greek Athletics.
1990 Began renting the lake near Monticello.
1991 Participated in the first Mid-Winter Naturist Gathering, and the founding of AANR-Florida. Best small club newsletter award.
1992 A rival club died after six months. Bylaws established.
1993 Local nude bar controversy in Tallahassee.
1994 First experience lobbying the Florida legislature. First club in the nation to evaluate political candidates.
1996 First annual College Greek Athletic Meet, also a youth camp.
1997 Published Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values. Began name change.
1998 Peak year of membership and attendance. New web page won an award.
1999 Full-Moon Skinny-Dips moved from the sinkholes to the lake.
2001 Internal dissension. Helped write model nudity ordinance for Jefferson County (where the lake is).
2002 Completed name change to Tallahassee Naturally.
2004 New club logo. Club nomination of Lee Baxandall into the AANR Hall of Fame succeeded.
2007 The old building burned. New pavilion and storage shed put up.
2009 56 people in the lake for the Guinness World Record. Naturally FSU started.
2011 25th anniversary.
2012 College Greek Athletic movie premiered. Started Trynudethon.
2014 Trynudethon-Lite added.
This is the short version. If you want fuller details, read on.
In the fall of 1986, The Naturist Society was contacted about forming a new group. The name devised during that time was the ““Tallahassee Bare-Devils””. Most gatherings occurred at local sinkholes and remote lakes.
In 1989, with numbers suddenly rising, we decided it was time to get organized. At our first annual business meeting, we formalized the leadership we had long recognized, with a five-member board of directors.
During Christmas break, the Florida Department of Natural Resources held a hearing on its proposed regulation outlawing even fashionable swimwear in state parks. We alerted our members by putting together our first newsletter. Nudists and naturists from around the state converged on Tallahassee to voice their objections. For the first time, Florida's feuding free beach groups, travel clubs, and landed clubs banded together. The coalition lasted 4½½ years, and we were the hosts when it happened. That night, ASA (now known as AANR) executive director Arne Eriksen announced that we had been provisionally accepted into the national organization, with two years to get our membership up.
We had located a private lake that could be rented and entered a new phase as a semi-landed club in July 1990. Security was apparently what people had been waiting for. Membership leaped to over 60.
With the Olympics in Atlanta, we offered our first authentic Greek athletic meet for college students in 1996. It has continued to draw a small crowd every year since, as the only nude re-enactment of the ancient event in the world.
That summer, we opened Camp Tallasun for our young people aged 11 through 17. Besides cooking and swimming and canoeing, kids worked on rigorous merit-badge-type proficiencies such as camping, survival, nature, and birds. But the camp happened only once. By the next year, most of those kids had moved away or gotten paying jobs. We tried advertising nationally, but could not attract enough outsiders to keep the camp going.
In 1997, for the third time in four years, we successfully lobbied the Florida legislature to stop an anti-nudity law. Part of our strategy was the new booklet, Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values, underwritten by the Naturist Education Foundation, and published by our club. Five hundred copies of the first edition were distributed to state and local lawmakers nationwide. But a few months later, we had to rally support again when Florida representative Weldon lied on the floor of the U.S. house to prohibit the posting of signs on federal seashores that could inform the public where the nude beach areas begin and end. We lost that one.
We entered the age of the World Wide Web in 1998. That very first year our webpage won the Virtual Naturists Award.
The fall flowers had never been so beautiful. They served as a fine backdrop when FSU and Florida A & M University sent reporters to cover our student activities. Two college girls also wrote research papers on our club. One had been assigned to pick a group and blend in for a few weeks while gathering her information. She did.
In the summer of 2001, we hosted our first nude wedding on the grounds as new members Charles and Susan exchanged vows, with her son as best man. The minister wore only a T-shirt painted like a tuxedo, and he discarded that to join us in the water afterward.
Our Political Committee worked closely with Jefferson County officials to create what AANR executive director Erich Schuttauf called the best local nudity ordinance in the nation.
The June full-moon skinny-dip in 2002 turned out to be the most exciting ever. Students arrived to find five grass fires beginning to climb the trees, and a drunk who thought he was doing a wonderful control burn. Carrying lots of water from the lake, we got the fires under control (though they continued to flare up over the next three days). For the first time ever, we had to call the police to remove the firebug.
Also in June, we completed the five-year process of changing our name to Tallahassee Naturally. We were negotiating the purchase of land, but pulled back when membership and attendance failed to rise as expected.
In December, our first electronic newsletter was sent out.
Gator Sink, where we had kept the trash picked up for 15 years, was sold to the State Park system in 2003. Officials absolutely refused to consider any leasing arrangement with the generations of skinny-dippers who had always used the place.
We participated in filming the My Town, Monticello documentary, which premiered the next spring. We adopted a new logo, as the old one had fallen out of use years ago.
The first hurricane in June of 2005 brought our lake to overflowing, and we had hundreds of minnows swimming through our lawn.
2006 was our twentieth anniversary, so we invited lots of old timers back for a September picnic--and honored those who had served the club during the past ten years.
In April of 2007, the old building burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. A dozen big pine trees were lost. After cleaning up the debris, we spent the next couple of months erecting a new picnic pavilion and a metal storage shed.
By 2009, the nation was going through the worst recession since the 1930s. That meant people vacationed closer to home, and we actually broke several monthly attendance records. In July, AANR sponsored the first nationwide skinny-dip for the Guinness Book of World Records. We had 56 people in the water for the official count. Half were there for the first time, and a third of them were students. We ended the year with the second-highest attendance ever.
When FSU started ripping down our posters, Trevor filed papers to form a campus organization called Naturally FSU. Ours was the sixth student nudist group in North America to ever achieve official recognition, and is the only one functioning today.
For our twenty-fifth anniversary, we invited lots of old-timers to come back for a picnic, recognition, and remembering.
Athletics launched our second quarter-century. Paul edited many years of Kim's film coverage into a College Greek Athletic Meet movie. And we created our first Trynudethon (nude triathlon) for a rugged fall event, with a much easier half-course called Trynudethon-Lite added two years later.
Over the years, we have done many things right:
- We have emphasized being natural in Nature, and have maintained high standards that brought us sophisticated and serious people.
- We have thought for ourselves, creating innovative programs to serve local people, rather than trying to imitate other clubs.
- Through student discounts and some activities aimed mainly at the college crowd, we have maintained a 10-to-15% student membership--reportedly the highest in the nation. We have frequently had a student on the board of directors.
- We have maintained a member-run democracy, with decisions reached by consensus. By carefully delegating responsibility, we have kept experienced leaders from burning out, while constantly bringing newer people onto the board.
- Through a balance of discretion and publicity, we have become an established and respectable part of the community. Most of the news media treat us seriously. And despite several years with a misleading name, we have experienced no trouble from self-righteous preachers or police.
- We have kept good records--financial, attendance, membership, a scrapbook, and a newsletter long unmatched for incisive news analysis.
- We have kept one foot firmly planted in each of the national organizations, and have maintained a full program of activities on both public and private land.
- We have done our duty as citizens in the naturist community, whether in working to prevent bad laws, sending money to trouble spots, leading the two-year struggle to keep AANR open to all, or publishing our family values booklet.
- More than 4,000 people in north Florida and south Georgia have taken advantage of our free first visit to the lake. One out of every five or six have joined.
Over the years, more than 60 people helped keep this a participatory democracy by taking their turn on the board of directors. Countless others have done wonderful volunteer work on committees or without titles. We cannot celebrate all these years of natural freedom without thanking the many people who have made it possible.