May 7 event to draw thousands to Melbourne Beach
By Tammy Roberts
Browse local art, cheer on thousands of plastic turtles or race a recycled raft through the Indian River Lagoon at next month's Melbourne Beach Founders Day.
The historic event, scheduled for Saturday, May 7 at Ryckman Park, draws between 3,000 and 5,000 guests throughout the Space Coast each year. This year's event will mark 28 years since the town was founded.
For the early-risers, the event will kick off with the 2011 Two-Mile Bulldog Pineapple Run at 7:30 a.m., followed by a free kid's run for children 8 and younger. Proceeds from the run will benefit the Melbourne High Distance Booster Club and the Greg Skufca Scholarship Fund.
At 8 a.m., the town will host the Pineapple Surf Contest, which will include several age divisions, as well as short board, longboard and body board divisions.
Beginning at 1:30 p.m., participants will do their best to stay afloat during the Waste Pro Captain Rufus Recycle Regatta, beginning from the Melbourne Beach Pier. The event challenges teams of three or more to construct rafts made of all recyclable materials and paddle through a course in the Indian River Lagoon. The first team to collect their "booty" from one of three buoys anchored in the river will be named the winner. Other prizes will be awarded for the team with the craziest crew, the raft with the most unorthodox form of propulsion and the team whose most valiant effort ends with the most impressive failure.
The rules prohibit participants from throwing objects, such as eggs and water balloons, yet, strongly encourage the use of Super Soakers.
"We originally designed the event as a way to raise awareness about the importance of recycled materials and other creative uses for them," said Ed Struttmann of Melbourne Beach, one of the event coordinators. "We get more participants each year, and it's always a lot of fun."
New this year, organizers have added the Major Cyrus Graves Canoe & Kayak Race, named after a Union Army veteran, who purchased more than 600 acres of what is now Melbourne Beach, shortly after sailing into the Melbourne Harbor in 1883.
The race, which welcomes one- and two-person kayaks or canoes, will precede the Recycle Regatta.
Then at 3 p.m., the M.O.R.G.A.N Project will host its seventh annual Turtle Splash, in which participants have an opportunity to "adopt" plastic turtles for a small donation and watch from the Melbourne Beach Pier as they race for the finish line. The adoptive "parents" of the winning turtles will win prizes, ranging from airline tickets to a seven-day cruise.
With each turtle adoption, guests will receive a free children's wristband, which will include access to a plethora of activities for kids at Founders Day.
Funds raised during Turtle Splash will be donated to the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project, a nonprofit organization, which stands for Making Opportunities Reality Granting Assistance Nationwide that benefits children with special needs. Last year, the adoption of nearly 3,000 turtles helped raise more than $15,000 for the organization.
Kristen Malfara and her husband, Robert, founded the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project in 2001 in honor of their 13-year-old son, Morgan, who was diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a rare disease that causes degeneration of the white matter of the brain.
"It's Morgan that keeps me going; he's my constant inspiration," Mrs. Malfara said. "My goal is to make life easier for families like mine and provide them with the tools they need. That's what this organization is all about."
Melbourne Beach Founders Day will also feature arts, crafts and food vendors, live music, a talent show, a bocce ball contest, fishing contest, antique car show and other family events, as well as an evening street party along Ocean Avenue for guests 21 and older.
Melbourne Beach Founders Day will be Saturday, May 7 at Ryckman Park, just east of the Melbourne Beach Pier.
For information about the event, to download registration forms or for a complete schedule of events, visit www.melbournebeachfl.org.
For information about Turtle Splash or to adopt a turtle, visit www.turtlesplash.org. Turtle adoptions can also be made at Lexus of Melbourne and any Beachside Physical Therapy location.
For information about the Recycle Regatta, visit www.facebook.com and search "Waste Pro Captain Rufus Recycle Regatta."
A free "Park & Ride" from St. Sebastian's Episcopal Church, 2010 Oak St., will run to and from Ryckman Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.