By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
Wilbur Boathouse hosted its 32nd annual flea market and bake sale March 22-23. This year's event was special, however, because it was the 100th anniversary of Wilbur Boathouse. The annual event brings people from the community together and draws others from much farther away.
Pat Donnellan came to the event all the way from West Virginia. He decided to come to the flea market while visiting friends in the area. Carol Paisley came from even farther out. She arrived from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and enjoyed the day at the flea market while visiting family in Daytona Beach. Rick Seelig is a local resident who lives in Wilbur-by-the-Sea and attended the event for the third straight year.
"It represents the area well and I always make a point to come down because you never know what you'll find," Mr. Seelig said.
He not only came to look through the items being sold, but he also contributed by donating artwork, books and clothing for others to look through and enjoy. This supportive concept is a big part of why Wilbur Boathouse has been standing and flourishing for so long. The community at Wilbur-by-the-Sea gets heavily involved because there is no municipal government associated with it. It is an unincorporated area in Volusia County.
A Boston real estate dealer named Jacob W. Wilbur established the community and Wilbur Boathouse in 1913. Since then Wilbur Boathouse has grown in historical significance as the only building in the state of Florida used continuously for the same purpose, a community meeting place. When Mr. Wilbur passed away, the boathouse was given to the people of the community to be maintained for their benefit and that is the objective to this day.
A major way the historic boathouse is maintained today is by renting it out for weddings, wedding receptions and wedding anniversaries. People are drawn to the boathouse for wedding events because it is a historic place, with a fabulous view and a large deck area for activities. According to Arnold Marfoglia, a boathouse volunteer, they are able to have about 30 wedding events a year.
"I think it's an ideal place to be married," Mr. Marfoglia said. "It's amazing how beautiful it is here with the mangroves and magnificent sunsets."
Mr. Marfoglia also noted there are times when the bay behind the boathouse has a lot of dolphin activity. The water level in the bay is shallow enough that dolphins use it for birthing their young.
Besides weddings, Wilbur Boathouse is used for a variety of seasonal events throughout the year, such as New Year's celebrations, Thanksgiving dinners and Halloween festivities. The boathouse also has smaller activities, such as cookouts, sunset viewings, and canoe and kayak launches.
The flea market and bake sale is just one of the special events at the boathouse and brings the community together. The event was in danger of not happening during the last couple years because of the amount of time and labor needed to set it up, Mr. Marfoglia said.
He credited Maryanne Palasak and her family as the driving force behind the flea market. She has been running it since 2005 and her parents ran it for 10 years before that. In typical Wilbur-by-the-Sea nature, Ms. Palasak in turn credits Madge Frecht who has run the bake sale for the past 15 years.
All the money that is generated at Wilbur Boathouse goes towards maintenance of the boathouse as well as going back into the community as charitable donations. For the past two years, Wilbur Boathouse has donated $500 to the R.J Longstreet Elementary School.
In 1999, Wilbur Boathouse underwent 15 months of restoration and reopened in 2001. The historical building received a generous grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation because it used to be a ferry landing for ferries coming from Ponce Inlet. The county took over the project and did an excellent job rebuilding Wilbur Boathouse and maintaining its historical standards. It now continues to stand strong as the symbol and heart of the residents of Wilbur-by-the-Sea.