Reigning over the golden anniversary of the Florida Seafood Festival this weekend will be two musicians - a young trombone-playing pixie and a young-at-heart bass-playing seafood dealer.
Franklin County High School junior Morgan Martin, 16, has long played first trombone in the Seahawk band, and now leads the musicians as drum major.
Her King Retsyo, Vance Millender, a seafood dealer with deep ties to the industry, plays tenor sax and bass guitar for the rock band Locomotive.
Together, they sound just the right notes - that the seafood industry that is Franklin County’s heritage and lifeblood shall long endure.
“It will go as far as we can take it,” said Martin, daughter of Teresa Ann Martin of Apalachicola and Henry Martin of Destin
“It’s up to the people and what we can do to help and continue to help our industry build,” she said. “It’s really up to the people. I want to believe it will never die out and we can have this festival for the next 50 years.”
Millender is a prime example of the type of people Martin is talking about, a Carrabelle native, grandson to Braxton Millender, who started the business in 1942 and then handed it down to his son Farris Millender.
After he graduated from Carrabelle High School in 1971, and then did two years of vocational training before returning to his roots, Vance Millender joined the business, interrupted only by a three-year Navy stint from 1974 to 1977, including time in the Pacific aboard the USS Enterprise, CVN-65, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
He returned to Carrabelle and working with his dad in 1973, the same year he married high school sweetheart, the former Virginia Dale McMillan. About six years ago, he handed over ownership of Millender and Son Seafood Company to his sons, David, 34, and Stephen, 32, who lives with wife Crystal and the Millenders’ first grandchild, Jaxon, in Carrabelle.
Farris Millender died in 1999, and his wife Betty lives nearby in Carrabelle. In 2009 the company built a plant at 607 SE Avenue B, and introduced retail into the mix.
“We do not do nearly as much processing as we did in the 60s, 70s and 80s, not on a large scale,” Vance Millender said. “We really sell a lot of different types of seafood but the main thing is shrimp.”
Fresh shrimp and oysters will be among the many types of seafood available at the festival.
“It’s seafood paradise, it’s all you look for in a festival,” said Martin. “It recognizes not only the seafood industry but the people in it who help to operate the seafood industry. It’s to recognize our fresh local seafood. Not everybody can say their seafood is fresh and local.
“All ages are involved; no one’s left out,” she said. “Everyone can participate, from the youngest to the oldest.”
Martin has many fond memories of the festivals of her childhood, going with older sisters, Ke’Asha and Cheyenne. She is the granddaugher of Betty Stephens, of Apalachicola, and Freddie Jefferson, of Miami.
“I remember being involved in the festival every year,” she said. “The parade was my favorite thing, just to watch all the entries. It’s full of excitement, not only to receive candy and beads. Something you don’t want to miss out on.”
An honors student, Martin has her sights set on college, majoring in the medical field and minoring in theatre. As a member of the Take Stock in Children program, she’s poised to have her tuition paid for two years at a community college, probably Gulf Coast State College, and two years at a four-year college, possible Florida State or University of West Florida.
Right now, though, her mind is set on this weekend.
“I’m not a nervous wreck but I’m not not nervous at all,” she said. “I’m kind of in-between. It’s going to be a good time. You’re going to remember this one. I think it’s going to be great.”