The Gigantic Nautical Flea Market is the signature fundraiser for the Upper Keys Rotary Club. In 2019, it’s set for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 and 24 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at Founders Park in Islamorada, MM 87.
It is a chance for locals and visitors alike (it’s the third biggest event in the Florida Keys in terms of attendance) to shop to their heart’s content. This year, more than 250 vendors have acquired booths to hawk their wares.
“There is a basic nautical theme, but you can find a lot more than just that,” said Bette Brown, a Rotary volunteer. “Wear comfortable shoes and enjoy browsing for some unique items, gobble a great Rotary burger and sip the coldest and best beer around!”
The event has raised in excess of $250 million in direct scholarship aid that’s benefitted local graduating students and current college scholars for decades.
Carla Gonzalez, one of the scholarship recipients, has finished her undergraduate degree and is beginning to look at med school.
“I am also so grateful that the Upper Keys Rotary has helped me make my career dreams into a reality by financially supporting me through the long, rigorous, and expensive process of becoming a future physician,” she said.
Rotarians from other Keys clubs provide significant volunteer help to make this event a “gigantic” success in terms of turnoutand money raised.
“Scholarship awards from the Rotary club are the byproduct of hundreds of people in the community who give their time and effort to this great event that is the Gigantic Nautical Flea Market,” said Rotarian Frank Derfler. “Held annuallyin February, the planning cycle ends when we award the scholarships, then we get planning again for the following year.”
The flea market features vendors, food and drink. Plus, guests are welcome to make a day of it by lounging on the beach. Derfler, a veteran of this annual soiree, has helpful hints:
“If you’re coming by boat, anchor outside the swimming area and wade in,” he said. “Also the crowds are smaller and bargains are better on Sunday!”