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There’s a particular atmosphere that draws them to the place. Artwork from visitors decorates tables, walls and even floors. Visiting carpenters leave traces of their presence with their skillful repairs and construction. And there’s even an occasional jam session in the common room, sometimes featuring professional musicians.

Chickens roam the grounds, providing visitors with fresh free-range eggs and there’s a paddling of ducks who refuse to paddle. Raised from day-old chicks and closely guarded against predators, they refuse to go near the water, Dennard said.

So popular is the hostel that there’s a waiting list to be manager, and there’s a six-month term limit.

Frank Belo currently holds the post along with one-named co-manager Carch.

“You meet people from all walks of life with crazy talent here,” he said.

“We stand in a circle before dinner and we tell each other about ourselves and enjoy each other’s company,” office manager Dawn Holowienko said. “And there’s also the lake.”

The former borrow pit on a corner of the 133-acre property serves as a swimming hole for hostel visitors and staff, giving them relief from the summer heat.

When Dennard started the hostel, he figured it might last a few years but not approach the 20-year warranty on the original domes.

“I’m surprised it’s lasted so long, yeah,” he said.

But there’s a simple explanation, according to a long-time friend and hostel visitor Bill Massey.

“It doesn’t surprise me that it’s still around, considering your dedication to it,” he told Dennard.

With few of the creature comforts most people are accustomed to, logic dictates there would be a period of adjustment that comes with staying at the hostel, but Dennard said it’s just the opposite.

“They tell me it’s a lot harder to get used to being back home,” he said.

Lia Nydes, who was at the hostel on a work-study program through Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, agreed.

“I don’t miss concrete at all,” she said.

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