Hot, humid summer Florida weather did not deter Nocatee residents from attending the monthly farmers market July 20 at Station Field. The bounce houses were visited by a steady stream of shrieking children while parents sipped a cold drink or tasted fare from food vendors. Some visited the market to shop for produce, specialty foods, crafts and other wares. Others came for a special Wild Encounters experience presented by Gatorland or to recognize Marines serving overseas at the Marine Military Give Back event.
Nocatee resident Becky Turner organized the Marine Military Give Back event to recognize those serving overseas. Two of Turner’s four sons, Charles and Chad, are currently serving in the military. Charles gave up a college scholarship and his job at Publix to serve his country. He’s in basic training now and plans to study engineering. His older brother, Chad, is a lieutenant.
The mission at the farmers market was to collect essentials and package them for delivery to deployed Marines. To find out what items would be most appreciated, Turner asked a Marine in Afghanistan what he would like to find in an unexpected package. The request was for simple items: instant coffee, lip balm, deodorant, razors, toothpaste, wipes, protein packs, magazines and playing cards.
Poolees from Recruiting Sub-Station Ponte Vedra helped fill the gift bags to be sent overseas. The local poolees have either graduated or are currently attending Ponte Vedra High School, Nease High School, Creekside High School and Bartram Trail High School.
“I’m here to support those in uniform in Northeast Florida,” said Representative Cord Byrd, Florida House District 11. He was on site to talk to donors and volunteers and also donated 100 packages to the cause.
When the reptile handler from Gatorland announced the Wild Encounter presentation, the bounce houses emptied, and a crowd gathered at the open-air stage. Gatorland’s Steven Thompson told the audience how to identify Florida’s venomous snakes while holding a python. He also called for a youth volunteer who had the chance to hold an alligator while Thompson talked about the reptile’s anatomy. Between shows, Thompson let a red footed tortoise wander through the grass and held the python for children willing to get close enough touch the snake.
The next Nocatee Farmers Market will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aug. 17 at Station Field near the waterpark.