Scholarships highlight popular Grant Seafood Festival


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Proceeds from the Grant Seafood Festival help to provide scholarships and fund other community causes.

Jennifer H. Monaghan

When the 54th annual Grant Seafood Festival ends this year, as much as $65,000 will be set aside for academic scholarships.

The long-running event that brings visitors from across Central Florida has mentored students and helped them complete their studies by providing scholarships. Proceeds from the festival also fund the Grant Library, Historical House and other community causes.

One of this year’s scholarship recipients is Nisha Rosa.

“I volunteer to help the community and staff, and also I try to gain a scholarship so I can help myself with money toward my master’s degree,” she said.

Dakota Church, another scholarship recipient, has a long connection to the festival.

“I grew up in Palm Bay,” he said. “I always come to the festival and I was even helping before. And, when I turned 18 and went to college, they let me know there was a scholarship I could apply for. So, I actually had a purpose for what I was doing here, other than just helping the community out.”

These students are part of the volunteer pool of more than 600 who staff the booths and maintain the infrastructure. After the festival, clean-up and a volunteer appreciation party, planning for next year begins.

In January and February, the festival grounds is abuzz with activity. Working adults, retirees and students work together in teams performing tasks necessary for the operation of the festival, such as painting, repairing and rebuilding booths, supply inventory and food preparation.

A volunteer for more than 30 years, Nancy Turner manages the meals for volunteers during the days leading to the festival. Her helpers include students, whom Turner fondly refers to as “my kids. I love them,” she said. She is proud of their positive team work, their sense of responsibility and respect for each other.

“It’s all about community, and it takes a lot,” said Charlie Christenson, reflecting on the long history of the all-volunteer festival. Christenson is president of the Grant Community Center, which hosts the festival. He was “born into it” as were many other participants.

The Grant Seafood Festival was scheduled on festival grounds in Grant-Valkaria on Feb. 29 and March 1 this year. For more information, go to grantseafoodfestival.com.