Annual event scheduled for March 16-17
By Tammy Roberts Farmer
SUNTREE -- Just as strawberries need the right environment and careful hands to grow, an organization as volunteer-driven as Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County can only thrive with the best ingredients.
Since 1985, the nonprofit has worked hard to eliminate substandard and inadequate housing throughout the Space Coast and has since served nearly 300 low-income families with the opportunity to purchase a simple, decent, affordable home.
"Habitat has more than 5,000 active participants each year, made up of local residents, families, clubs, businesses, churches, as well as college students, who participate in Collegiate Challenges during Spring Break and retirees, who caravan around the country to Habitat build," said Lisa Barr, vice president of development for Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County.
Together, these volunteers have helped build 228 new homes, rehabilitate 47 existing homes and rebuild another 20.
None of this would be possible, however, without generous community donations, as well as local support for the four major fundraisers the Brevard branch of Habitat for Humanity hosts each year.
One event, which happens to be right around the corner, is the organization's 25th annual Strawberry Fest, scheduled for March 16-17 at Wickham Park in Melbourne.
The free two-day event, which has been known to attract families, couples and Habitat enthusiasts from throughout the state, will feature something for everyone.
"Strawberry Festival is a family-friendly event designed to remind people of a simpler time," Ms. Barr said.
Guests can begin each day of the festival with a pancake breakfast that includes fresh strawberries, served with sausage, orange juice and coffee, Ms. Barr said. After breakfast, they can head over to the Open Car & Bike Show, where more than 300 antique, classic, custom, hot rod cars and bikes will be displayed or take a stroll through the rows of more than 150 arts and crafts vendors, featuring a variety of art mediums and displays.
Entertainment will be provided under the Wickham Park pavilion all weekend long, and children will not run out of things to do in the Kids Korner, from rock-climbing and the Monkey Bounce to a plethora of other games and activities.
The Berry Patch 5K Run is always another fun event for athletes of all levels, kicking off Sunday, March 17 at 8 a.m. at the pavilion.
New this year to the festival is a 360-foot adventure zip line, the inaugural Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest, which will be Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and a chance to put your fishing skills to the test with Capt. Mike Badarack and the Back Country Fly Fishing Association Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"Manny the Manatee" will greet the little ones from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, while guests will have the opportunity, all weekend, to watch Habitat volunteers frame the exterior and interior walls of a house in just two days, Ms. Barr said.
Non-perishables will also be collected for the Brevard Sharing Centers in the BCC parking lot on your way into the festival, she added.
But for some, the biggest draw to the festival will always be the hundreds of fresh, vine-ripe strawberries for sale that are picked up and delivered just two days before the event.
Twenty-five years is a major milestone for the organization and one that is worth celebrating, Ms. Barr said.
"From humble beginnings at Front Street Park, Habitat's Strawberry Festival has grow into one of Brevard County's largest annual family events," Ms. Barr said. "The goal is to raise awareness and money to build homes with hardworking families in Brevard. As the success of the festival grows, so does Habitat's ability to provide services to Brevard County residents in need of a hand up, not a handout."
Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County's Strawberry Festival will be Saturday, March 16 and 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wickham Park Main Pavilion.
The organization hosts four major fundraisers each year, all of which are open to the public: The Strawberry Festival in March; the Father's Day Tool Drive in June; the Hard Hats & High Heels Gala in September; and the Annual Christmas Appeal in December.
For more information or sponsorship packages, visit www.brevardhabitat.com.
For more information about the Open Car & Bike Show, call (321) 255-6473 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Berry Patch 5K Run, call (321) 728-4009 or visit www.brevardhabitat.com.
Visit Habitat for Humanity on Twitter at @BrevardHabitat or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HabitatBrevardCounty for sponsorship or volunteer opportunities and the latest news and events.