BRANDON — Rotary's Camp Florida is what longtime Rotarian Randy Kizer calls the hallmark of Rotary club creations throughout the state.
Founded in 1991 and funded by Rotary clubs across the state, the 21-acre tree-canopied site on the banks of Gornto and Chapman lakes in Brandon is a sanctuary for sleepovers and non-stop entertainment for children with special medical needs.
It's also the home of Brandon '86 Rotary Club's Brandon Seafood Festival, branded to benefit charities that provide help to people in the greater community who have special and sometimes life-saving needs of their own.
This year, the club's 24th annual signature event, formerly known as Denizens of the Deep, is set to run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 5) at 1915 Camp Florida Road off Lakewood Avenue.
The family-focused affair will feature an all-you-can-eat southern-style buffet of fried fish, shrimp, sausage, hush puppies, coleslaw, hotdogs and hamburgers. Beverages will include beer, lemonade, orange drinks, iced tea and water.
Amusements of all kinds are also on tap — from face painting and bounce houses to three new additions: three-legged races, a hula-hoop competition and a timed obstacle course event comprised of inflatable items.
Another first is that the ever popular pie-eating contest will consist of two categories, one for adults and one for kids. It was primarily limited to grown-ups in previous years.
"You would not believe what a big event this is, and it's so entertaining to watch," said Seafood Festival chairwoman Ann Spire.
In addition, several vendors selling arts and crafts have signed on, and Otis Velt & the Old School Band will be on hand to entertain attendees with some crowd-pleasing sounds of yesteryear.
"It's a fun day for everyone, especially the kids, and the camp is a great place to hold it," said Kizer, a founding member of the Brandon '86 Rotary Club who has watched the event emerge over the years from 200 to 300 festival-goers to the anticipated 1,000 attendees this year.
"I would encourage people to come out and talk with Rotarians, get a feeling about the community and perhaps even become part of what they see there," he added.
Spire believes the camp — a place that she noted many Brandon area residents know nothing about — should, in itself, be a draw for folks in the community.
"Rotary's Camp Florida is beautiful and we like to have it there so we can showcase the place," she said.
She also hopes to have a good turnout because it represents the club's most important fundraiser of the year, with a goal of $20,000.
Toward that end, Spire said she is grateful to have Auto Club Group AAA/Tampa Bay as the title sponsor.
The club will distribute event proceeds to the Brandon Outreach Clinic, the Emergency Care Help Organization of Brandon and Everyday Blessings, a nonprofit organization in Thonotosassa that cares for mainly sibling groups of abused, abandoned and neglected children while they await permanent housing.
A portion of the profits will also support Rotary's Camp Florida and Rotary International.
For more information, visit brandon86rotary.com.