A sight that is not to be missed is located on Tamiami Trail right before the Ringling Causeway. It’s the 27-foot-high “Unconditional Surrender” statue. On August 14, 1945, President Truman announced the end of World War II following the surrender of the Japanese. As the story goes, in a moment of pure joy, a U.S. Navy sailor kissed a random nurse in New York City’s Times Square. There are many versions of this story because the identities of the individuals in the photo have never been truly confirmed. The prevailing thought is that the sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman, though over a dozen people have come forward claiming to be the sailor or nurse. Regardless, that iconic moment was captured by two photographers: Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “V–J Day in Times Square” photo became the iconic shot on the cover of Life magazine; and Victor Jorgensen captured another angle for The New York Times. The “Unconditional Surrender” statue that was created by J. Seward Johnson and graces the Sarasota landscape is based on Jorgensen’s photo.
Johnson has made a few versions of this statue using bronze, Styrofoam and aluminum. In fact, similar statues can be found in other places around the world including Normandy, France; San Diego, California; and at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii. Unconditional Surrender” first appeared in Sarasota in 2005 as a temporary exhibit. When it returned for another short-term exhibit in 2009, Jack Curran, a member of the “greatest generation” and a WWII Navy veteran, began efforts to make Sarasota the statue’s permanent home. Criticism regarding possible copyright infringements and critics’ opinions of the quality of Johnson’s skill met the huge aluminum structure. However, through private donations and monetary protection guaranteed against potential lawsuits, the statue won the right to stay. It’s there to remind us of the actions that precipitated World War II and the devastation the war caused throughout the world. The victorious kiss reflects the national pride that erupted in the streets of the United States following the Allied victory.
The Sarasota Bayfront Park is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful areas of the city. Because of the romantic feel and gorgeous scenery, countless couples have chosen the park as the backdrop to their wedding or for a first date. After finding a parking spot with relative ease, visitors can stroll the circular sidewalk while taking in the tranquil atmosphere and stunning views of Sarasota Bay—all for free! In addition to the natural setting, the park hosts works of art including the dolphin fountain and the “Unconditional Surrender” statue where visitors can strike a pose to create their own iconic photograph. Plus, there are places to dock your boat, grab a bite to eat, and even rent watersports equipment like kayaks and paddleboards. Kids will love the playground and the splash park (summer only), couples will love the romantic bench swings that overlook the water, and even the family dog will enjoy the exercise and playtime with other dogs on the grass or in the water. Sarasota Bayfront Park is a destination that should not be missed!
The dolphin statues that grace the Sarasota Bayfront are quickly becoming icons of the city. Steven Dickey was the artist who cast these depictions of playful sea life and placed them over a fountain that is approximately 40 feet in diameter. Bronze, stainless steel and granite were the key materials used in creating this piece. Interestingly, the four dolphins that are frozen in time while frolicking through the water are actually the same size as an average dolphin found in the wild. This striking work of art debuted in Sarasota in 1995 and was funded by Marina Jacks, Inc. and the City of Sarasota. While visiting the bayfront, stop by to see these beautiful dolphins!