What to do on the Emerald Coast over the holidays?

4th of July on the Emerald Coast

What to do on the Emerald Coast over the holidays?  Here are a few ideas:

Destin will feature a fireworks show on July 4th starting at 9:00 p.m. over the Destin Harbor. This is always a good one. Easy to watch from Emerald Grande, AJ’s, Harry T’s, Lucky Snapper, Holiday Isle and by boat!  

HarborWalk Village (Emerald Grande) will be featuring a number of events throughout the week. The July 4th Extravaganza on the Harbor will feature 5 days of happenings at 6 p.m. each day:

June 30 – Red, White & Blue Celebration on the Harbor, celebrating the efforts of people who go above and beyond to better their community. Enjoy live entertainment, free kid’s crafts and face painting, and a WWII replica flyover. The evening is topped off by a spectacular fireworks display over the Destin Harbor. 6PM to 9PM
July 1 – Family Fun Fest 6PM to 9PM
July 2 – Rock the Docks – Live music on Destin Harbor featuring local artists. 7PM to 9PM
July 3–Operation Inspiration – A powerful and unique evening of live musical entertainment to give hope and inspiration for all. Operation Inspiration begins with a Meet & Greet at 5 PM with the performing artist, and is followed by the concerts at 6. Concerts are free and open to the public.
July 4 – Hot Dog Eating Contest with Dave’s Dogs, and a spectacular fireworks display finale. 6PM to 9PM


Ft. Walton Beach has a number  of events on the schedule as well:
4th of July Celebration at The FWB Landing Park
Event Date: July 4th, 2011 – 3:30pm – 10pm
Entertainment: 3:30pm until after the 9:30 pm fireworks.
Place: Fort Walton Landing Park on Brooks Street

The National Historic Landmark Schooner “Governor Stone” is again gracing her slip at the Fort Walton Beach Landing. This two-masted schooner is the last of the coastal freighters which carried everything from oysters to produce to mail along the Gulf Coast of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This visit is sponsored by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council. The public is welcome to board the schooner on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays between 5-7 pm through July 4th.

Also featured is a Children’s Bicycle Parade –  Grand Prize: 2 Bicycles, donated by Wal-Mart. Participants are encouraged to decorate their old bikes in patriotic theme! The Bike Parade Entry Fee is $1.00. Bike parade registration is from 4:00 – 5:30 pm and entries close at 5:30 pm. Judging from 6:00 – 6:30 pm.  Parade at 6:45 pm. For more info Contact: Helen Spencer, FWB City Clerk/850-833-9509 or Laura Melendez, Bike Parade Coordinator/850-301-2122

And finally, this from Seaside:
Seaside’s annual 4th of July Celebration features a community parade and live music for the entire family. Fireworks on July 3rd and the annual South Walton 4th of July Parade. You can dance the night away with music during Stars & Stripes at Seaside; and salute the night sky with a spectacular fireworks display on the beach to end the evening!

The festivities begin on Sunday, July 3rd with a special pre-4th fireworks display from the beach in front of Bud & Alley’s at 9:00 PM. Bring your friends and family down to the water’s edge and view this stunning fireworks show amidst the backdrop of Seaside.

Families on bikes, scooters, golf carts and floats are invited to participate in the parade. Registration for parade participants is required; please visit:  to download a registration form. Prizes will be awarded to the best parade entries in a variety of categories. After the parade has ended and winners have been announced, enjoy music in the Amphitheater from 30A Radio until 11:00 AM, along with face painting and other fun.


Sunshine, yes … Rain, no

Drought conditions exist over 93 percent of the state of Florida. While rainfall has increased somewhat, it will take many days of rain to benefit the region and help diminish the danger of lightning related fires. Many of the recent wildfires have been blamed on lightning.

According to the Florida Drought Monitor, Okaloosa and Walton counties are under extreme drought conditions. This includes Destin, Seaside, Ft. Walton Beach, 30-A, etc.  Locally, there have been no restrictions on water useage. In fact, the forecast calls for above average rainfall in the next 8 – 14 day range!

BP Oil Spill – A Box Office Flop?

The Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill remains the biggest news story today. The economic impact to our area could be significant, not a result of any environmental impact, but rather the result of a runaway news media, unwilling or unable to curtail its overwhelming obsession with the sensationalization of this event. 

My God, the St. Petersburg Times (who by the way is just left of Karl Marx) ran a story today titled  ”Oil Spill May Be Worse Than Recession”.  An AP story today states that “The Gulf Coast oil spill could eclipse Exxon Valdez”. No wonder tourism is down. I’ll be willing to bet that another today story ”Gulf oil spill: Tar balls found in Florida Keys not from Deepwater Horizon slick” will get little exposure.

OK, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the drive-by media. The real point is, what can we along the Emerald Coast do about it? 

In a nutshell, we have a situation that may NEVER impact the Emerald Coast. The hysteria so far is not the result of any actual negative impact on the mainland, but rather the fear that it might. No one ever mentions that it may be just as likely to NOT impact us.

The following points may help put things in perspective:

 1.   The Deepwater Horizon is estimated to be spewing an amount of crude that would fill an Olympic swimming pool every three days. After a period of one month, that would equate to what? TEN Olympic size swimming pools? The Gulf of Mexico is HUGE! That is like ten people urinating in an Olympic pool on the 4th of July.  (Apologies for that analogy)

 2.  Back in 1979, Ross Perot’s deep water rig Ixtoc Uno blew out in the south end of the Gulf. It pumped an estimated 140 MILLION GALLONS of crude into the Gulf over a nine month period. Does anyone even remember it?  Did it destroy any ecosystems? Yes, some oil washed up on the South Padre Texas beaches, but it was cleaned up and life got back to normal.  Tourism survived, property values held their own and the ecosystem was not significantly impacted. 

BTW, at the current rate of flow at Deepwater Horizon, it would take until the year 2021 to rival the amount spilled at Ixtoc Uno in the Gulf in 1979!!

 3.  It is estimated that many millions of gallons of crude leech up naturally through the Gulf sea bed every single year. Where does everyone think all that crude  has been going for all these years? On the beaches? Into the estuaries  of Louisiana? Not!

Okay, granted, this is a serious event, and we don’t want more oil in the Gulf  waters, but it is simply not the end of life as we know it on planet Earth. Whatever the impact may be, we will deal with it quickly and then life goes on, much to the chagrin of the many attorneys, environmental scientists, Hazmat specialists, government contractors and news media that are now seeing green. While I just hate to disrupt all these dreams of multi-billion dollar verdicts and lucrative government contracts  that are dancing in their heads, someone out there in the media should at least be willing to consider the very real possibility that this will not manifest into the greatest environmental disaster of all time. 

If this were a Hollywood movie,  I would not invest a dime.  It just may be a  box office flop.

The Weather Channel Features Destin

The Weather Channel – Why I Love Spring
ATLANTA – March 20, 2009 – The Weather Channel will usher in spring with a seasonal theme week that combines on-air and online content to match the public’s springtime frame of mind.  Among the special programming will be a new 30-minute special of “best of spring” moments hosted by Stephanie Abrams, who is seen on The Weather Channel weeknights on WeatherCenter.  The “Why I Love Spring” program will premiere Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. ET and will reair at various times throughout the week including Tuesday, March 24, at 2 p.m. ET.  In addition, The Weather Channel will feature many other on-air programming elements related to spring. 
Highlights during “Why I Love Spring” Week March 22-28 will include special segments from the popular Epic Conditions and Weather Ventures outdoor series where weather conditions are perfect for sports people enjoy in the spring.  Reporting from the field will be Mike Bettes on-location at Lake Tahoe on Monday and at Sedona, AZ, on Wednesday and Julie Martin at the Sandestin Resort on the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday and at the Callaway Gardens Flower Show in Georgia on Thursday.  Topics will include gardening and planting tips, travel ideas, outdoor grilling pointers and season-related health matters such as allergies.  Spring season topical packages and live reports will be featured frequently during the network’s live programming — Your Weather Today, WeatherCenter, and Weekend View.   
“Why I Love Spring” theme week will also feature exciting, multi-platform content about spring break destinations, picnic tips, golfing advice and all things related to the season of renewal – spring.   Visitors to will find content featuring important spring subjects, such as surviving allergy season and top 10 spring break destinations, as well as OCM blogs and personality pages addressing the theme of spring.    
New “Best of Spring” Special and Other Themed Programming Help Viewers Embrace New Season during “Why I Love Spring” Week March 22 through March 28

When does the tourist season actually start in Destin?

Tourist season begins in earnest in March during the first spring break. The spring breaks actually hit us in waves in March and April as most of the southern states have staggered vacation schedules. This is occurring at about the same time that our winter “snow bird” guests are packing up to go home.

Our area attracts many families during spring break, as opposed to the stereotypical spring break locales featured on late night TV. With our upscale dining, shopping and accommodations, the Emerald Coast naturally lends itself to a more adult clientele.

Tourist season here will wind down around Labor Day, making the months of September and October two of the nicest times to visit.  While we do have very serene peaceful stretches of beachfront here year round, September and October usually bring lots of sunshine and great weather, and the restaurants and beaches less crowded.

Second homes: The sweet life on a stretch of Florida’s ‘sugar sand’


By Larry Olmsted, Special for USA TODAY

Unlike densely populated South Florida or theme-park epicenter Orlando, the western panhandle of Florida has no big cities, and trendy nightclubs are few and far between. The region is not exactly sleepy, with plenty of golf courses and resort developments, but for many years it hasn’t drawn much attention from second-home buyers beyond nearby Louisiana, Texas and Alabama.

Not so any longer. Attracted by some of the best values in Florida (not to mention some of the state’s most acclaimed beaches), buyers from all over the USA and Canada are heading to south Walton County. A new international airport scheduled for 2010 may bring them from even farther.

The main selling point is sand, so soft and white locals call it “sugar sand.” The 26-mile stretch of coastline that constitutes the beaches of south Walton County has 14 towns or communities  including Seaside, the locale for the fictional picture-perfect town in the film The Truman Show. All 26 miles have been certified “Blue Wave Beaches,” an environmental seal of approval from the Clean Beaches Council.

The entire strip is on a narrow peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay. More than 40% of the region is owned by the state and protected from development. There are numerous state parks and preserves, as well as an extensive network of protected sand dunes. All of it is linked by more than 200 miles of bicycle paths and hiking trails. But the landscape is not all nature: The strip has about a dozen golf courses.

The 14 communities are each distinct  some gated, some not; some planned, some evolved. The best known are Sandestin, Seaside, WaterSound and WaterColor. Among them, they contain an array of restaurants, art galleries, shops and recreational facilities. Most have a mix of houses, townhouses and condos. Prices also are diverse, from just over $100,000 to several million dollars.

“Compared to south or central Florida, we have a huge variety of product with a large number of affordable homes,” says Joe Bracciale, director of real estate sales at Sandestin.

A look at three south Walton County neighborhoods

 WaterColor. This 500-acre mixed resort and residential development designed in traditional Southern style, includes a boutique hotel, spa, beach club, marina, shops and restaurants. Residents also have access to a nearby Tom Fazio golf course. Home sites range from $96,000 to $1.5 million and houses from $575,000 to $4.6 million. The master plan calls for 1,140 homes.

 Sandestin. This huge development contains 30 subcommunities on 2,400 acres with thousands of homes and condos, some in high-rises. It also has four golf courses, a tennis club, spa, marina, 7 miles of beach and coastline, a shopping center, pedestrian retail village, 20 restaurants and several hotels. Condos begin as low as $129,000, and houses run as high as $3 million to $4 million, but “the majority of our residences are in the $250,000-$600,000 range,” says Joe Bracciale, director of real estate sales.

 Town of WaterSound. A sister property to WaterColor, this development includes three neighborhoods, all designed in an architectural style inspired by Nantucket. WaterSound Beach is a gated, 256-acre beachfront community with mostly private homes. It has lots from $275,000 and houses from $865,000. WaterSound West Beach is a 62-acre coastal community surrounded by protected land with fewer than 200 home sites. Lots begin at $159,000 and houses at $699,000. WaterSound, on 1,400 acres, has the most residences planned, more than 1,200, and the most amenities, including a golf course and extensive trails. Lots start at $59,000 and houses from $459,000