Fat Willie’s Fish Camp and The Village Players have been the keystones of the Valrico community. Fat Willie’s Fish Camp was almost shuttered after the recent COVID-19 pandemic, but the community and the Robinson family rallied around the beloved restaurant to keep it open. It was that outpouring of love and community that inspired the Robinson family to create the Valrico Village Exchange that will be held on Sunday, April 11 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Fat Willie’s Fish Camp’s grounds.

Fat Willie’s Fish Camp and The Village Players have long been the keystones of the Valrico community. Fat Willie’s Fish Camp was almost shuttered after the recent COVID-19 pandemic, but the community and the Robinson family rallied around the beloved restaurant to keep it open.

It was that outpouring of love and community that inspired the Robinson family to create the Valrico Village Exchange.

“We want to create a community meeting place of sorts,” said Amanda Peterson. “Willie’s and The Village Players have supported each other for years. We are both at the center of the Valrico community and Willie’s has a huge piece of property, so we thought, why not use it for a great purpose, the community?”

The Valrico Village Exchange will be held on Sunday, April 11 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Fat Willie’s Fish Camp’s grounds. It will feature local vendors and, of course, Willie’s awesome food.

“The exchange will be a part of Willie’s grand reopening,” Peterson said. “Willie’s reopens on April 9 and we are so excited to have our community back in the restaurant. The exchange will feature local vendors from our community as well.”

Some of the vendors include other community favorites like Foundation Coffee and Stalk & Vine on 39.

There is some great history behind the exchange too. The building that is home to Willie’s was built in 1915 and was originally a general store. The James McCabe Theater, which is home to The Village Players, was also built in 1915. It’s the only remaining commercial structure from Valrico’s own small land boom at the turn of the century. Originally built to house the Valrico Civic Club, it was established by the membership to be a home for the group and an attractive focal point for the community.

Peterson and the Robinson family hope the Valrico Village Exchange will be a success and continue to be an ongoing event at Willie’s.

“The community has spoken loud and clear that Willie’s is not just the best seafood restaurant around, it’s a community center that offers a critical gathering place, especially during these difficult times,” Peterson said. “It is a piece of everyone’s history, offering a sense of stability that is so important in the unknown present and future. Through discussions and social media posts, we have heard the heartfelt pleas to do something that will keep Willie’s open and bring the community together.”

If you would like to learn more about the Valrico Village Exchange, you can email Peterson at fatwilliesfishcamp@gmail.com or visit their Facebook event page at www.facebook.com/events/1214670852262015.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.