Lucy and Ronald McAloney have a commodity that is increasingly harder to find in Brevard County: land.
The 45 acres in Grant where the couple raised their family, plus a few cows and horses, may seem huge to folks used to postage-stamp lots. But, Ronald McAloney grew up roaming hundreds of acres in Grant. His family once operated a dairy farm on property that became the Cypress Creek subdivision.
Like many of the area residents, the McAloneys have a strong sense of community. For 52 years, until Lucy’s knees made it too onerous to continue, the couple volunteered for the Grant Seafood Festival, the February weekend event that swells the little town’s population by about 50,000 seafood fans.
The two-day festival, 100 percent run by volunteers, funds the municipality’s many charitable projects, including a scholarship, community center and quirky library.
Like the McAloneys, many volunteers include their children in the effort. It is not unusual to see several generations of local families volunteering together at the festival.
The pioneers who tamed the land were a small group, tough enough to tackle formidable scrub and mosquitoes. A census of the area around the late 1800s would have been finished very quickly, since only four families had settled there. A “population boom” occurred in late 1892, when three families alighted from a steamboat to make a new life in Grant, doubling the population with 16 new souls. Most of the new residents were of Nordic descent. Their legacy remains in family names such as Jorgensen, Christenson and Bensen, still common among Grant-Valkaria residents.
By 1912, Grant as well as Valkaria had enough residents to merit listing as stops along the East Coast Railway. Of the few vestiges remaining from the turn of the century is the 1893 Jorgensen’s General Store, now the home of Rib City. Part of the National Register of Historic Places, the blocky building squarely facing the Indian River has survived many a hurricane and served as a trading post, telegraph office, post office and antique store before transforming into a restaurant.
To exercise control over the destiny of their towns and ensure the preservation of the rural character, residents of then unincorporated Grant and Valkaria joined forces to become Brevard’s newest town in 2004.
Carole Kruszeski and her family left Fort Lauderdale for Grant nine years after searching for the perfect town throughout the state. They remembered the area from a long-ago camping trip that stuck in their memories with fondness.
“Grant-Valkaria is the friendliest town in Florida,” said Kruszeski, who heads the local Welcome Wagon.