city, seat (1921) of Sarasota county, west-central Florida, U.S. It lies along Sarasota Bay (an arm of the Gulf of Mexico), about 60 miles (95 km) south of Tampa. Sarasota, variously spelled Sara Zota, Sarazota, and Sarasote, appeared on maps in the 1700s, but the origin of the place-name is uncertain; one explanation is that it may have been derived from a Spanish term meaning "a place of dancing." The first settler arrived in 1856 and planted orange trees. Scottish settlers came in 1884 and two years later built a golf course. With the arrival of the railroad in 1902, tourism began to grow. Bertha Palmer, a Chicago socialite, established a citrus farm and cattle ranch there in 1910, which helped popularize the area. In 1929 John Ringling selected Sarasota as winter headquarters for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a position relinquished to nearby Venice in 1960.
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