A third-generation Seminole County resident, Lake Mary’s Chad Crawford shares his family’s rich history and what it means to call our community home
When Chad Crawford was a little boy growing up in Sanford and Lake Mary, Lake Monroe served as the blissful backdrop to his childhood. Time well spent meant time on the St. Johns River, fishing and observing Florida wildlife alongside his father and grandfather in the early hours of the morning.
“It was, and still is, absolutely beautiful,” says Chad. “There’s a certain mystique about cruising down the river, feeling the cooler temperatures and seeing the morning condensation. When you’re on the river, it’s intoxicating, and you can’t help but imagine that it looked the exact same 1,000 years ago.”
This proximity to incredible natural resources like the St. Johns River, the Wekiva River, Lake Harney, Mosquito Lagoon, and other local fisheries has always been such an inviting quality of the Seminole County area, says Chad.
“I think the natural beauty is what has really kept my family in Seminole County for so long,” he says. “My grandfather John Angel, on my mom’s side, was a great outdoorsman, and because of him, I developed a love for the outdoors. I wanted to be like him and have these experiences for myself.”
Chad, now 46, has experienced the great outdoors and beyond through his work as the owner and executive producer of a Lake Mary-based production company and as host of the popular syndicated TV series how to Do florida, a travel adventure show that can be seen on Fox Sports Sun, dedicated to all things Florida, which is now in its 10th season.
“Because of the show, I’ve been able to travel all around Florida and see some of the most beautiful areas in our state and meet some incredible people, but I still choose to live in Seminole County,” says Chad. “This is a great place to come home to, and because my family goes back three generations, we’re all very proud of where we’re from. We have a real sense of community here and have always been very invested in our home.”
Chad’s maternal great-grandparents were the first to put roots down in Sanford in the 1930s to open up Angel’s Eat Shack, an old railroad car converted into a diner. After working in the family restaurant, Chad’s grandfather graduated from Seminole High, joined the Navy during World War II, and earned his degree in education before returning to Sanford to teach. He started his career at his alma mater as a biology teacher and football coach and later moved into administration as principal of several public schools, eventually stepping in as superintendent. His final role was as principal of Teague Middle School, where he stayed until his retirement in 1993.
“Everybody knew my grandfather, John Angel. He was very well thought of in the community and in the schools – even if he did give a few folks a paddling,” jokes Chad. “He was a very respected man.”
Chad’s paternal grandfather, John L. Crawford, moved to Sanford at the age of 10. He, too, joined the Navy right after graduating from Seminole High and served at the Naval Air Station in Sanford. In fact, all three generations – including both of Chad’s grandfathers, Chad’s father Dusty, and Chad himself – graduated from Seminole High and served in the Navy.
After his time in the Navy, John L. Crawford bought the Thrifty Service Station with his brother-in-law Buddy Lake – a popular minor-league baseball player who became a sports legend in Sanford. In Buddy’s honor, the Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium houses the Buddy Lake Multipurpose Room. Today, the Crawford family gas station, originally located at the northeast corner of Palmetto Avenue and 2nd Street in downtown Sanford, is home to a local brewery.
“Our families have a long history in Sanford that we’re proud of, and we’ve always loved living in the area,” says Chad’s father Dusty, who worked for Sunniland Corporation in Sanford, one of the oldest incorporated companies in Florida. Dusty moved from Sanford to Lake Mary many years ago to raise four children with his wife Jacalyn. “My wife just has one rule: nobody is allowed to move away!”
Fortunately, all four siblings – Chad, Stephanie, Matthew, and Micah – still reside in Central Florida and are extremely close.
Like father like son, Chad has four children of his own – Kasey (17), Chase (15), Cooper (12), and Kendall (8) – with wife Kristy. Kasey and Chase attend Lake Mary High and are active in sports including swimming, water polo, cross country, and track and field. Cooper plays football, and Kendall is a cheerleader.
“It’s pretty crazy in our house, but our kids are each others’ buddies, and it makes them better people,” says Chad. “I’m excited about the idea of them continuing the next generation of our family. It’s also extremely important to us to encourage our kids to get outdoors and develop a love for nature. That’s the great equalizer in our life today.”
Whether it’s taking his family along for the ride on a how to Do florida episode or carrying on a long-standing family tradition like going on a camping trip for the opening week of duck season, Chad is grateful to be able to grow where he’s been planted.
“Seminole County is a premier county when it comes to natural beauty, quality of life, and our schools,” he says. “It didn’t happen overnight. A lot of people in the community share our vision of keeping this area as a great place to call home.”
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