Monday, June 30, 2014

What to Do in Destin Around July 4 Holiday?

"What is going on in Destin?" It's one of the biggest questions we receive during a holiday week.  To help, we've compiled a list of festive July 4 celebrations.  Check out all of your options below. If you know of something we've missed, be sure to post it in the comments.

We  hope you have a safe and happy July 4!

July 3

Smoke on the Coast BBQ and Fireworks Festival
Enjoy BBQ competition, fireworks, live music from two different stages, crafts and fun for kids, and more. Event is 1 – 10 p.m.  BBQ sampling at 6 p.m.  Fireworks at 9:15 p.m.

Red, White & Blue Celebration
Celebrate a local hero with live entertainment and a WWII vintage flyover.  The evening is topped off with a spectacular fireworks display.  Fun begins at 6 p.m.

Beach Blast at Elephant Walk
Enjoy a fireworks show, live music by Bo Adams, face painting, balloon sculpting, bonfire, and more, beginning at 6 p.m.

Americana Under the Stars
Enjoy free admission into Topsail Hill State Preserve.  Open mic starts at 6 p.m., and the Bridget Kelly Band will perform.  Bring a chair, your favorite beverage, and enjoy music in the park.

July 4

Museum Offers $1 Admission
The Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida offers $1 admission, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  View historic exhibits, including military, Native American, pioneer, and early industries.  Play in the hands-on Discovery Room and stroll in the new “Paradise Gardens” backyard exhibit.

Hilton’s Independence Day Celebration
Enjoy a traditional buffet dinner with all-American and coastal favorites, followed by a spectacular beach fireworks show.  Event is 6:30 – 9 p.m.  Make reservations at (850) 267-9500 x44.

Fireworks & Dinner Cruise Celebration
Celebrate on the water, as you cruise into the sunset, indulge in coastal cuisines, dance to live music, and watch the fireworks, aboard the 125’ Solaris yacht.  Cruise is from 6 – 9:30 p.m. Visit for pricing and reservations.

Fireworks Aboard the Southern Star
Cruise the Destin Harbor aboard the Southern Star.  The cruise is from 8:15 – 9:45 p.m.  Call (850) 837-7741 for pricing and reservations.

Red, White and Baytowne
The Village of Baytowne Wharf will have kids’ activities from 6 – 10 p.m., including crafts, face painting, and balloon sculpting.  Mama’s Blue Dress will perform from 7 – 9 p.m., and the fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m.

HarborWalk 4th of July Celebration
Let freedom ring, rock, and roll with the Victory Belles, as they revive the WWII classics with their vintage charm.  Concert begins at 7 p.m.  Fireworks at 9 p.m.

Beneath the Stars & Stripes – Sinfonia Concert
Enjoy a free concert at 7:30 p.m. on July 4, at the Lighthouse Amphitheater at Shoreline Village.  Sinfonia Gulf Coast will present Beneath the Stars & Stripes: A Tribute to our Armed Forces and Veterans.  The concert benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.  Find details at

City of Destin’s Fireworks
The City’s Annual Independence Day Fireworks show will take place near the Destin Harbor over the waters of the East Pass, beginning at 9 p.m.  Turn your radio to Z96 to hear the musical accompaniment.

July 5

Free Concert at HarborWalk Village

The Village will be rocking with a free live concert by Gypsy Riot on the HarborWalk Village main stage.  Concert starts at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 2014 Business Briefs / Member News Part 2

New Realtors Join ERA American Realty
ERA American Realty Of Northwest Florida, Inc., welcomes Linda Adams, Karla Del Monaco, and Dave DelDonie. Adams, who has worked in real estate in the area for the past three years, will join the Destin office. Del Monaco and DelDonie, who have worked in real estate in the area for the past 14 year, will work from both the Grayton Corners and Destin offices. For more information, call (850) 837-2181 or

Okaloosa Turns Corner on FCAT to Recoup Top-10 in Reading for all Grades 3rd through 10th; Middle Schools Move to Top 5!
In her first full year in office, Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson takes great pride in the fact that Okaloosa Schools are back near the head of the pack among Florida’s sixty-seven counties. Most every grade level moved up in state rankings in both reading and math, and all grades, 3rd through 10th, are among the state’s top 10 in reading. The district also excelled in science, with students finishing in the top five in both of the assessed grade levels (5 and 8). Click here to keep reading.
Foundation Hosts Wounded Warrior Weekend Retreat
Local nonprofit organization Emerald Coast Community Cares Foundation hosted eight families local to the Destin and Fort Walton Beach area for a Wounded Warrior Weekend retreat May 2-4. The mission of the retreat was to give local service veterans returning from their time overseas an opportunity to not only relax, but to also reconnect with their wives, children, and the local community. All aspects of the retreat were donated by the local businesses and restaurants or funded by the foundation’s annual golf tournament, which is set for Sept. 4-5, at Burnt Pine Golf Club. For details,

Sacred Heart Guild Supports Hospital Initiatives with $63,769 Donation
The Volunteer Guild at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast recently presented a $63,769 donation to the hospital in support of a variety of patient-care initiatives. Each year, the Volunteer Guild invites hospital department managers to apply for one of the Volunteer Guild’s special capital sponsorships to enhance patient care, resulting in new equipment, software upgrades and customer-service projects. The Guild’s largest fundraising event is the annual Emerald Coast Duck Regatta at Baytowne Wharf each October, which features family-friendly games and the opportunity to adopt a duck before thousands of rubber ducks set sail across the pond for a chance to win $5,000. For more information about this exciting event, please visit For more information about Sacred Heart, please visit

Blue Marlin Realty Group adds new members to the team 
Blue Marlin Realty Group has expanded once again with two new realtors, Craig Carter and Cat Stevens, and a new rental and guest services manager, Devin Marquez. Carter, originally from Kalamazoo, Mich., is a graduate from Western Michigan University. After college Carter worked for several well established companies in executive rolls. Most recently, he formed the rental company Carter Beach Properties, which he sold in 2013.

Stevens is a licensed real estate broker in Tennessee and Florida and a businesswoman in every sense of the phrase. Beginning her career in the male-dominated automotive franchise business, Stevens owned nine franchises in Indiana and Florida for 18 years. After the sale of the area franchise rights, Cat obtained her real estate license and began managing a large LLC/PUD consisting of upscale villas in a golf course community in Naples.

Blue Marlin Realty Group’s new Rental & Guest Services Manager Devin Marquez hales from Albuquerque, N.M., but is no stranger to the Destin area. Marquez has lived in the area for nine years and has managed vacation rentals for five of those years. From reservations, guest services, inspections, housekeeping coordination and property management, Marquez worked in every position in the industry during her time with a local beachside realty group.

For more information, visit

Godwin Achieves Resort and Second Home Specialist Certification
World Impact Real Estate Broker Dr. Rodney Elkins announced that Realtor Roy Godwin has now been certified as a Resort and Second Home Specialist (RSPS) by the National Association of Realtors. This certification is designed for REALTORS who facilitate the buying, selling, or management of properties for investment, development, retirement, or second homes in a resort, recreational, and/or vacation destination. Call Godwin at (850) 585-1066.

Gulfarium Adds New Dolphin Encounters
To add to the lineup of animal interaction programs, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park unveiled two new encounter opportunities, each unique to the dolphins' talents, while taking full advantage of the serene setting at the newly renovated Dolphin Point exhibit. During the new Dolphin Doodle encounter, participants can let their creative side go wild as they team up with one of Gulfarium's talented dolphin artists to create a one-of-a-kind work of art. Guests of the Breakfast with the Dolphins program will start their day with a smile as they enjoy a delicious breakfast with the company of dolphins on the deck of the new Dolphin Point exhibit. Advanced reservations are recommended. To see a full list of interaction opportunities and to make a reservation, visit or call (850) 243-9046.

Gulf Pointe Academy Art Supply Drive for Children in Crisis
The Gulf Pointe Academy helped the kids of Children in Crisis (CIC) get ready for their summer enhancement program by conducting an art supply drive. Thanks to the generous donations of a huge variety of art supplies from the Academy and community, all the kids at the Children’s Neighborhood received needed supplies to take them through the summer. Seen here are Ken Hair, CIC President & CEO; Jessica James, Gulf Pointe Academy; and Penny Minnamon, CIC Teen Transitional Coordinator. For more information about CIC,

Ondrejkova Earns Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM Certification
Merrill Lynch announced that Financial Advisor Simona Ondrejkova earned the Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM (CRPC®) certification awarded by the College for Financial Planning. This specialized education credential is awarded to individuals who have successfully completed the requirements of the designation program, which includes a course of study encompassing pre- and post-retirement needs. Ondrejkova may be reached at (850) 269-7011 or by

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chairman's Message: What is EDATE?

Hello, Members!

Summer officially arrived this weekend.  What does that mean for you? Well, most immediately it means cookouts are happening everywhere, and the Chamber is no exception.  The Destin Commons is celebrating the opening of its expansion on July 3, with the Smoke on the Coast BBQ and Fireworks Festival.  I hope you will stop by and see all the new stores.  Please be sure and come see YOUR Chamber hard at work in our tent.  We will be smoking Boston butts.  Correction, Shane, Elizabeth, Dena, and Suzy will be doing the cooking - I will not, so it will be safe to eat.

If you have plans to be out of town around the Fourth of July and cannot make the Smoke on the Coast, do not despair.  You have another opportunity to enjoy some Chamber cookout fun.  On Tuesday, July 15, the Chamber will host the Chamber's Great American Cookout at the Chamber's office - again, I am NOT cooking , so come by and eat with confidence.  Thank you to First Florida Bank for sponsoring this sure to be fun event.

Now that your appetites have been (or will be) satiated, I would like to tell you about some other Chamber business.

EDATE – no, it is not what you might think based on that acronym.  EDATE, the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, will be on the ballot this August.

WHY? Because the EDATE program expired on March 9 of this year, and Florida law requires that the program go before the voters every 10 years.

WHAT IS THE EDATE PROGRAM ALL ABOUT? It is an economic tool that will allow Okaloosa County, the City of Destin, and Fort Walton Beach to remain competitive in their business recruitment.  EDATE provides an enticement to qualifying new or expanding businesses by giving these businesses an exemption of up to 100% of their property tax for up to 10 years.  The exact amount of the exemption depends on many things, but the three main factors are how much the company will invest in building new facilities and other capital projects, how many new jobs will be created, and the salary that will be paid to its employees relative to the average salary in Okaloosa County.

WHAT EDATE DOES NOT DO:  exempt qualifying companies from taxes payable to the school district, emergency personnel, or water districts.  These taxes will be paid with no adjustment allowed.  Also, the County has the option to remove the exemption if the company does not create the jobs it said it would.  EDATE is not intended to create more competition for existing businesses, but rather to encourage diversification in our business community.

WILL OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT START GIVING EXEMPTIONS FREELY AND OFTEN? While I certainly do not know the future, if history is any predictor, I do not think so.  The EDATE exemption has only been granted to five companies in the last 10 years.

WHAT ABOUT ALL THE PROPERTY TAXES THOSE NEW OR EXPANDING COMPANIES WILL NOT BE PAYING? In order to get the business to locate here or expand its current operations, it has to provide jobs - those who get these jobs will be paying taxes.  So those who are opposed to EDATE because of concerns that there will be a net loss of taxes, I ask, wouldn't you rather have some additional taxes due to new employees working or existing employees making a higher wage, rather than no taxes from the company because it did not chose to come here?

WHAT HAPPENS IF EDATE IS NOT APPROVED BY THE VOTERS? This area will be at a disadvantage when trying to market itself as a place to open new or expand existing businesses.   And our neighboring communities and states will start to look better and better to the company's bottom-line, although it is true that NO other area could ever visually be as attractive as our EMERALD COAST!

GOOD COMPANY.  If you vote in favor of EDATE you will be in good company.  The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners, the City of Fort Walton Beach, City of Destin, THIS CHAMBER, Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber, Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber, Crestview Area Chamber , the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties, the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County are all in favor of continuing the EDATE program.

Until next time,

Amy Perry

2014 Destin Area Chamber Chairman
Pleat, Perry & Ritchie, P.A.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 2014 Business Briefs / Member News Part 1

Wyndham Vacation Rentals® Managed Property Recognized as Top Tennis Resort
Wyndham Vacation Rentals announced that TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort, a Wyndham Vacation Rentals professionally managed property, was recently named a Gold Medal Resort by Tennis Resorts Online. Making the list every year since its inception, TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort ranked 13th for “Top 100 Tennis Resorts and Camps” and 5th place for “best value for the dollar.” For information about TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Club, visit

Emerald Coast Theatre Company Offers Cost Saving Specials
Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) is reducing the per student price of its musical theater camps by $100. That is more than 25 percent savings off the original cost. Additional savings are available for multiple kids and the military. The 2014 children’s summer series and new pricing is as follows:

July 28-Aug. 8
Musical Theatre Camp — “Willy Wonka Jr”

June 16-19 & June 23-26
Musical Theatre Camp — Disney’s “101 Dalmatians”

July 7-11
Camp Broadway — Seaside Neighborhood School

July 14-19
Drama Camp — “The Wizard of Oz” (with the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation)

For more information, call (850) 687-1637, visit, or follow

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast Announces $30 Million Expansion 
Leaders of Sacred Heart Health System announced plans today to launch a $30 million expansion of facilities and services at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast. The expansion will increase the capacity of the Emerald Coast hospital for inpatient services, maternity services, emergency services, and pediatric services. For details on the expansion, visit

Gulfarium Seeks Historical Photos
Poised to celebrate 60 years of operation next year, the Gulfarium invites you to be a part of its history with a call for photographs from park visitors and prior employees. It is seeking original photographs, postcards, and brochures from your early visits to use for its 60th anniversary celebration activities in 2015. Photo credit will be given with usage and materials will be returned upon request. Please contact Gulfarium's marketing coordinator, Krista Stouffer at (850) 243-9046 x30 or with inquiries and/or to submit photos.
Twin Cities Woman’s Club Donates Movie Night to CIC Kids
The Twin Cities Woman’s Club (TCWC) presented a donation of $500 to Children in Crisis to sponsor a Movie Night for the at-risk kids living at the CIC Children’s Neighborhood. The Movie Night complete with popcorn, will be enjoyed by over 30 kids. Seen here are Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO; Brenda Brown, TCWC co-chair children concerns; JoAnn Dunnam, TCWC chair childhood concerns; Lillian Lewis, TCWC president; and CIC development director Allie Noah. For more information about CIC, visit

New Realtors Join ERA American Realty
ERA American Realty Of Northwest Florida, Inc., welcomes Linda Adams, Karla Del Monaco, and Dave DelDonie. Adams, who has worked in real estate in the area for the past three years, will join the Destin office. Del Monaco and DelDonie, who have worked in real estate in the area for the past 14 year, will work from both the Grayton Corners and Destin offices. For more information, call (850) 837-2181 or visit

Louthain Joins Newman-Dailey Resort Properties 
Newman-Dailey Resort Properties announces the addition of Tracy Louthain, APR, CPRC, to its team. As the Director of Marketing and Communications, Louthain will oversee Newman-Dailey Resort Properties’ marketing and communications programs for all three divisions: vacation rentals/rental management, real estate sales, and association management. An accredited public relations counselor, Louthain brings extensive knowledge and experience developing strategic communications programs, especially within the tourism industry. For more information on Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, visit or call (800) 225-7652.

Boyd Named Florida Rising Star
Florida-based law firm Broad and Cassel today announced that Ginger Barry Boyd in the Destin office was named a 2014 Florida Rising Star. Super Lawyers is a research-driven rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. For more information, visit

Emerald Coast Magazine Makes Donation From Proceeds of Top Salon Event
The Emerald Ballroom at the newly remodeled Hilton Sandestin was full of excitement on Saturday, April 4, at the Emerald Coast Top Salon event. Local salons showed off their most creative styling tactics on their models. From changing hair color to upending personal style, the runway results were nothing short of spectacular for each of the 10 deserving models. On behalf of event winner Avantgarde Salon, a portion of the event proceeds was donated to Avantgarde's charity of choice Gulf Restoration Network. For more information about the Emerald Coast Top Salon 2014 event, visit

Twin Cities Hospital Recognized as a Fit-Friendly Company
The American Heart Association recognized Twin Cities Hospital Tuesday, as the most recent employer in Okaloosa and Walton Counties to achieve Fit-Friendly status. Designed to be a catalyst for positive change in American business, the Fit-Friendly Companies Recognition Program identifies employers who champion the health of their employees by creating physical activity programs within the workplace. Twin Cities Hospital proudly joins CHELCO, Gulf Power, Okaloosa County, and North Okaloosa Medical Center as an American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Company. For more information, visit or

Hildebrand Joins Newman-Dailey’s Real Estate Sales Division
Real estate sales agent Rhonda Hildebrand recently joined the team at Newman–Dailey Resort Properties. Originally from Maine, Hildebrand brought her warm personality to the Destin area in 1989. Working first in luxury vacation rentals with many of those years focused at Hidden Dunes Beach and Tennis Resort, she became very familiar with what the area had to offer and was captivated by the active beach lifestyle. She is a member of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. For more information, visit or call (850) 837-1071.

Legendary Marine Awards Inaugural College Scholarships to Four Regional Winners 
Legendary Marine announced the winners of its inaugural 2014 Legendary Marine College Scholarships. From an impressive field of 48 submissions in the combined markets, 2014 Legendary Marine Scholarship Winners included Blythe Greene and Kerri Andre, both from Fort Walton Beach High School; Avalon Dudinsky from North Bay Charter High School in Panama City; and Kaitlyn Hickman, Fairhope High School in Fairhope. Each receives a $1000 scholarship. For more information, visit Seen here, Destin and Fort Walton Beach winners of the Legendary Marine Scholarship Awards included Greene, left, and Andre, right, with Destin Sales Manager Bob Peavler, far left; Legendary Marine Managing Partner Fred Pace, center; and Fort Walton Beach Sales Manager Jeff Henley, far right.

YESS Program Equips Choctaw High School Football Team
On May 21, the Choctaw High School Indians became the first Okaloosa County High School outfitted with EvoShield’s next generation, high tech abdominal injury protection shirts funded completely by the Taylor Haugen Foundation and the Dugas Family Foundation grant. Thanks to the generosity of the Dugas Family, more than 100 Choctaw football players received the same compression rib shirts commonly worn by many professional and collegiate athletes, including Jadeveon Clowney and RG III. For more information, visit

“Stamp Out Hunger” Collects More Than 157,000 Pounds of Food
United Way of Okaloosa-Walton Counties would like to express its sincere thanks to the entire Okaloosa and Walton communities for their response to the Annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Food Drive. The United Way received 157,823 pounds of food collected along mail routes in these two counties. That response was more than 9,000 more pounds from last year. For details, visit

Emerald Coast Exchange Club Helps Children in Crisis
The Emerald Coast Exchange Club of Ft. Walton Beach continued its great support to Children in Crisis by presenting a $1,000 donation to help feed, clothe and care for the children living at the CIC Children’s Neighborhood. The focus of this year’s contribution was prevention of child abuse and giving a home to those children who are victims. Seen here, Gale Jones, Greg Givens, Shannon Swan-Sapp, Karen Helms, and Bill Allen present the donation to CIC president and CEO Ken Hair. For more information, visit

Two Northwest Florida Properties Earn 2014 TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence
Wyndham Vacation Rentals announced that two of its professionally managed vacation rental properties received TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awards. Waterscape Condominiums in Fort Walton Beach and Sunrise Beach Condominium in Panama City Beach were both honored with this accolade for hospitality excellence, which is awarded to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor. Only the top-performing 10 percent of qualifying businesses listed on the site receive this prestigious award. For more information, visit

Expansion Grand Opening and Smoke on the Coast at Destin Commons
On July 3, from 1 – 10 p.m., have a fun-filled day and evening celebrating Destin Commons’ expansion grand opening with 22 more stores and restaurants, the 4th Annual Smoke on the Coast BBQ competition, kid’s activities, and street performers. Enjoy continuous live bands performing on two stages, including THE MAXX, Heritage, Jones & Company, Coconut Radio, and Chris Alvarado. Twenty area restaurants and BBQ aficionados will light up their grills to prepare their best dishes. Starting at 6 pm, for $1 per sampling, people get to vote for People’s Choice winners with proceeds benefitting military and local charities. The evening concludes with an Independence Day firework extravaganza. Beginning at 4 p.m., free shuttle services will run from Destiny Worship Center and Mattie Kelly Arts Cultural Village/Grace Lutheran church parking areas during Festival hours. For more information, visit

Monday, June 16, 2014

Congratulations to Destin Forward Graduates

Join us in congratulating the Destin Forward Class of 2014!

Graduates include the following:
Monica Albarello, Conerly, Bowman & Dykes, LLP
Zach Cobble, Coastal Accounting of NW Florida, PA
Nice Coleman, City of Destin
Jennifer Garner, Southern Vacation Rentals
Ashley Harkins, Design Avenue
William Hatfield, Northwest Florida Dailey News
Alison McDowell, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance of NWFSC
Kandi Reeves, Alliance Association Management Co. Inc.
Jen Skillman
Luke Smith, Warren Averett
Moana Tucker, Merrill Lynch
Laura Wehe, Wyndham Vacation Rentals
Vanessa Wolny, Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Could you benefit from this community education and leadership program?

  • Want access to state and local elected officials, business and community leaders, and more?  
  • Want to know more about Destin's history and heritage?
  • Want to hear from those tackling Destin's most pressing issues?
Click here or call (850) 837-6241 for details.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Have You Heard? $5,000 Purse for This Year's Paddle at the Porch!

On Aug. 16, the 3rd Paddle at the Porch will take place in the beautiful emerald green waters behind The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House in Destin, Fla. The event features one mile and three mile recreational races and a six mile elite race, to be followed by awards, including a 5,000 cash purse! All ages and skill levels are invited to participate. 

 For the 3- and 6-mile races, the cost is $60 before Aug. 16, and $75 on race day. For the 1-mile race, the cost is $48 before Aug. 16, and $55 on race day. Registration may be completed on or by downloading a race brochure from The first 200 to register are guaranteed t-shirts. 

 Thank you to partners BOTE and The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House, in conjunction with purse sponsor Destin Commons; gold sponsors 99Rock, Brannon & Brannon, The Beachcomber, Buffalo Rock Pepsi, Destin Magazine, MC Photo, and Wyndham Vacation Rentals; silver sponsor Coastal Bank and Trust; and accommodations sponsors Go Southern, Sterling Resorts, and SummerPlace Inn. 

Stay up-to-date on all race details at or follow

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

May 2014 Business Briefs / Member News

Crestview Exchange Club Donates to Children in Crisis
The Exchange Club of Crestview showed its great support to Children in Crisis by donating a mountain of paper products for the CIC foster homes. This is one of the most used items in caring for the children. Pictured from left to right are Carolyn Knudson, Cheri Pittman, Liezele Wtulich, Ken Hair (CIC President & CEO), Karen Helms, Kathy Warren, and Sharlene Cox. For details, visit

Okaloosa Airports Receive BBB+ Standard & Poor’s Rating for 4th Consecutive Year
Okaloosa County Airports presented recent activity and financial results to analysts from Standard & Poor’s (S&P), as part of S&P’s annual review of the rating on the Airport System’s outstanding bonds. The Airport System includes the Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport, and Bob Sikes Airport. S&P affirmed the BBB+ rating with a stable outlook, for the fourth consecutive year. For more information, call the Citizen’s Information Line at 311.

Niceville-Valparaiso Rotary Donates to Museum
Bill Higginbotham of the Rotary Club of Niceville-Valparaiso presents a check for $600 to Gina Marini of the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida. The donation was from the sale of water and soda at the museum’s 38th Saturday in the Park, held April 26. For details, visit

Chopin Joins Sandestin as Executive Chef
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort announced the appointment Eric Chopin to the position of executive chef. Chopin is a professional chef with more than 30 years of experience. Born in Guerande, Brittany, France, Chopin has been seasoning his way through the cooking world in Europe and America. Beginning his cooking experience at the early age of 14 in Paris as a charcutier, Chopin is classically trained in the art of making delicious, unique pastry, and savory masterpieces, while always respecting their natural flavors and textures. For details, visit

CareerSource Okaloosa Walton Announces Grant

CareerSource Okaloosa Walton Board of Directors, National Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) representatives, and the August Warrior Project Executive Director will announce the Community Integration - Panhandle Warrior Connection grant on June 11. The Panhandle Warrior Connection grant will be implemented by CareerSource Okaloosa Walton. It is made possible by a grant from the National Wounded Warrior Project and is administered solely through the Augusta Warrior Project. CareerSource Okaloosa Walton is one of five communities in the nation selected for the Community Integration initiative. For details, visit

Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort Among Top 50

Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort was named a “Silver Medal Resort,” by Tennis Resorts Online, ranking the Miramar Beach resort among the top 50 tennis resorts for a third consecutive year. Hidden Dunes Beach & Tennis Resort features six championship clay Rubico courts and consistently receives high marks for overall tennis experience, tennis staff, instruction and game matching. For details, visit

Sacred Heart Hospital Awarded for Patient Engagement Efforts

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast has been recognized for its patient engagement efforts in the first National Patient Engagement Ranking by Axial Exchange, Inc., a pioneer in using mobile apps to deepen the patient’s role in improving outcomes, and Becker’s Hospital Review, a leading healthcare trade publication. Patient engagement is the process by which patients take charge of their own health. Ranked at number 23 out of 3,077 hospitals nationwide, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast secured the highest ranking in the state of Florida. For details, visit

ResortQuest Real Estate® Congratulates Top Producers

ResortQuest Real Estate recently announced the April top producers for its offices from Perdido Key to Panama City Beach. The Nathan Abbott Team of the Destin office received highest honors for top closed listings, and Janette Klein of the Miramar Beach office received top honors for top closed sales for the month of April out of more than 100 ResortQuest Realtors. 4840 to reach any of these offices. For details, visit or follow

School District Raises Funds for CIC
More than 20 schools from Okaloosa County participated in the annual Change for Children Campaign during the 2013-2014 year. The schools raised more than $23,000 in change to Children In Crisis (CIC). Schools that participated used creative ways like holding a bake sale, to collect change at their school. Antioch Elementary School was the winner from the Okaloosa County School District and raised $3,683.79. Ruckel Middle School was a close second raising $3,000. Seen here, Antioch Elementary School faculty and students, including Michele Tiller, Dimitri Toran, Alice Thomas, and Hunter Hannefield, present a check to CIC President & CEO Ken Hair. For details, visit

Fisher Selected for Prestigious Professional Development Workshop
Nathanael Fisher, co-founder and producing artistic director of Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC), recently was selected by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs to participate in a hands-on workshop presented by the leaders of the Creative Capital Foundation. The three-day professional development workshop, held at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Fla., is only open to a select group of qualified professional artists. The workshop is designed to provide selected artists with valuable skills and training to ensure that their creative careers are sustainable. It will cover topics such as strategic planning, marketing and promoting your work, and fundraising. For more information,

MKAF Wins FPRA Awards
The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF), with the support of TLC-PR and Design 360, was awarded a Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Golden Image Award, as well as the Grand All Image Award for MKAF’s rebranding campaign and the launch of the enhanced Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. For details, visit

Destin Passes Resolution to Ban the Sale of Candy-Flavored Tobacco

The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County (DOH-Okaloosa) and Tobacco Free Florida announced the City of Destin has passed a resolution to ban the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products. Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members from Fort Walton Beach High School presented the resolution to the Destin City Council in April, and it was passed during the May 5 meeting. The City of Destin joins Fort Walton Beach, Laurel Hill, Crestview, Niceville and Okaloosa County in the ban of flavored tobacco products. For more information, visit

Spring Fest is a Success

On May 17, more than 2,500 visitors visited HarborWalk Village to support more than 300 performers for a day full of arts, non-stop entertainment at Spring Fest 2014. Community stages were set to highlight continuous performances from groups, including show-stopping singing, mesmerizing Irish dancers, board-breaking karate demonstrations, tutu clad ballet performers of all ages, and music that brought the crowd to their feet. Nonie's Ark showcased nature up close and personal for educational animal encounters for all. Hands-on art activities allowed children to create masterpieces and face painting by Arts on the Beach. Funds were raised to support the Okaloosa Arts Alliance, with a mission to support and promote art, music, and culture in Okaloosa County. For details, visit

Destin’s Lawson Represents Florida in DYW of America

Destin resident Natalie Lawson, who is the current Distinguished Young Woman of NOT ONLY Okaloosa County, but also of the state of Florida, will be competing in Mobile on June 28, with the 49 other girls from other states for DYW of America! This is no "beauty contest," but is a scholarship program honoring high-achieving all-around incredible high school seniors who are our next generation of leaders. Emerald Ladies Journal featured Natalie as the Emerald Lady in its most recent issue. Additionally, she has been honored by the City of Destin, the Okaloosa School Board, and the Okaloosa County Commissioners. Seats to the June 28 event are available. Call (205) 886-5552. Also, monetary donations to the scholarship fund and in-kind donations, such as catered dinners, restaurant gift cards, and complimentary hotel rooms are needed. For more information on the program, visit

VPS Only Airport in Region to Experience Passenger Increase

The Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) continues to see an increase in passenger traffic. The Airport is up a modest two percent for the year and is the only airport in the region reflecting an increase. In April, NWF Regional Airport served 123,969 passengers which is a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year. The airport continues to see an increase in capacity and the size of the aircraft serving VPS particularly with Delta Air Lines who have upgraded from smaller regional jets to almost entirely mainline 717, MD88 and Airbus A319 aircraft. For details, visit

Congratulations to 2014 Leadership Okaloosa Graduates!

Matt Algarin – The Destin Log (Halifax Media Group)

Spencer Barnes – Barnes Insurance and Financial Services

Scott Barrow – Okaloosa Gas District

Anthony Boyer – Northwest Florida State College
Chris Cinal – InDyne Inc.
Gail Cornelius – Carter & Company, CPA, LLC
Katie Crowell – Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
Lisa Davis – Twin Cities Hospital
Tracy Denmark – United States Marine Corps
Nic Dezinski – Pioneer Technologies Corporation
Lisa Eaves – Rocky Bayou Christian School
Don Edwards – Trustmark National Bank
Taylor Jackson – Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC
Jerry Johnson – InDyne Inc.
Thomas Kauth – Cox Communications
Robin Keith – SmartBank
Billy Lord – Ocean City-Wright Fire District
Gordon MacLean – Equity Investors Group, LLC
Muncelle Mitchell – Chesser & Barr, P.A.
Michele Nicholson – Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
Suzy Nicholson Hunt – Destin Area Chamber of Commerce
Rosanna Padova – Southern Residential Leasing
Shanel Paulus – Coastal Bank and Trust
Brian Page – Law Office of Daniel C. Perri
Stephanie Pettis – Northwest Florida State College
Tracy Poe – Regions Bank
Shervin Rassa – Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast
Jeff Rouillier – Gulf Power Company
Kevin Sasser – Destin Fire Control District
Amanda Stevens – Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County
Dayna Stinebiser – Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce
Connie Watson – Early Learning Coalition of Okaloosa and Walton Counties
Chris Wheeler – Southern Vacation Rental Management
Andrea Williams – CCB Community Bank

SunDestin Unveils Splash Pad

Wyndham Vacation Rentals® announced that SunDestin Beach Resort & Hotel opened its newest amenity to guests - a splash pad. The splash pad is open daily from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. for guests of all ages. Children are encouraged to press the yellow button to turn on the water features, which circulate over 40 gallons of water per minute through ground nozzles and water play features that spray from above. For details, visit

Destin Water Users appoints Lockwood Wernet as General Manager
Destin Water Users announced the appointment of Lockwood Wernet as General Manager of Destin Water Users, following the recent retirement of Richard Griswold. Wernet has worked with Destin Water Users since 2000, when he joined the Board of Directors. Throughout the years, Wernet served as Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, and Chair of Strategic Planning Committee, before being hired as Assistant General Manager in 2010. He was previously employed with Newton Oldacre McDonald as Director of Property Management, the City of Fort Walton as a Planner and Human Resources Director, and the City of Destin as a Planner, Community Development Director, and Assistant City Manager. For details, visit

Hilton Honored with Four Awards
Northwest Florida’s Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has enjoyed an eventful 2014 awards season, garnering a number of prestigious awards from national industry trade publications. The resort’s most recent awards include the ‘Gold Tee Award’ from Meetings & Conventions magazine, the ‘Greens of Distinction’ award from Corporate & Incentive Travel, the bronze star for the Best Beach Resort from Smart Meetings, and ‘The South’s Top 75 Resorts For Groups’ award from Convention South magazine. For more information, visit

Rehabilitated Turtles Released

Two juvenile sea turtles have successfully made their way back home following months of rehabilitation courtesy of Gulfarium's Sea Turtle C.A.R.E. Program. Wendy and Tinkerbell arrived at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park last fall with very different ailments. Tinkerbell, a 20-lb green sea turtle, was missing her right front flipper and had several shell lacerations, likely due to an encounter with a shark. Wendy, a 14-inch long Kemp's ridley turtle, was severely underweight and having trouble diving down or swimming in a straight line. For details, visit

Bud & Alley’s in Seaside Opens PCB Location

Did you hear the bell? A 30-year Seaside dining tradition is expanding to Panama City Beach. On May 15, following a processional parade of staff and locals, a 200-pound vintage bell harvested from an old steam engine train was hoisted into place at Bud & Alley's Waterfront Restaurant in its new location overlooking Historic Grand Lagoon. After a few remarks, owner Dave Rauschkolb sounded the bell signaling the beginning of a new tradition at the newly remodeled 400-seat restaurant and officially claiming that a second Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant is now open for business. For more information, visit

Niceville Assembly of God Collects Food for Children in Crisis
The Niceville Assembly of God combined its Easter Presentation, “The Thorn,” with a huge food drive for Children in Crisis (CIC). Members of the church were challenged to collect and donate non-perishable food items and other household supplies. Seen here Allie Noah, CIC Development Directory, and Laura Moore, CIC Office Manager, accept the donation. To learn more about CIC, visit

Children In Crisis Welcomes New Development Director
Children in Crisis (CIC) announced the addition of Allie Noah as its Development Director. Noah will be responsible for grant writing and fundraising efforts. She joined the CIC team from SETCO Services, LLC, where she was the Director of Public Relations. She obtained her degree in Public Relations and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Valdosta State University. To learn more about CIC, visit

Taylor Haugen Foundation Announces 2014 Scholarship Winners
On April 18, the Taylor Haugen Foundation (THF) Board of Directors officially recognized its newest recipients of $1,500 scholarships. The scholarship selection committee evaluated the candidates on the basis of their academics, athletics, leadership, community service and Christian faith. The Niceville High School winner was Alayna Nixon and the two Okaloosa county-wide winners were Charles Foy, also from Niceville High School, and Kerri Andre, from Fort Walton Beach High School. To read more about THF and this year’s winners, visit

Property Managed by Wyndham Vacation Rentals Achieves Green Key Rating

Wyndham Vacation Rentals® announced that Green Key Global recognized TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort with a “3 Green Keys” rating as part of its Green Key Eco-Rating Program. The Green Key Eco-Rating Program evaluates properties that have made significant advances toward protecting the environment. Properties are recognized with “3 Green Keys” based on strong environmental programs, which implement management practices, training programs, and engineering solutions that benefit the environment and the local community. Learn more about TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort may be found at

Hyde Joins World Impact Real Estate
Dawn Hyde, a 10-year Destin resident, joined World Impact Real Estate. Before becoming a Florida Realtor, Hyde had diversified careers in public relations, director of the Miss Alabama Pageant, and teacher. Her business expertise in the public sector and her love of interior design and talent in interior decorating are added specialties that she brings to the table when meeting with clients and customers. Contact Hyde at (850) 368-2848 or email her

ResortQuest Real Estate® Congratulates Top Producers
ResortQuest Real Estate announced the February and March top producers for its offices from Perdido Key to Panama City Beach. The Nathan Abbott Team of the Destin office received highest honors for top closed sales and listings from more than 100 ResortQuest Realtors. The team has been recognized for highest production each month since January of this year and was recognized as the top producing team overall for the year 2013. Visit or follow

Nine Year Old Donates Birthday Presents/Food to CIC Children
Nine-year-old “JJ” Michaud learned to be charitable at an early age. For his last four birthdays, he has donated all his gifts to needy children living at Children in Crisis (CIC). He asked his guests to bring food and needed items for the CIC children instead of toys. JJ is seen here with CIC President and CEO Ken Hair. For more information, visit

BBB Offers Tips and Advice for Storm Repair
The recent heavy rains washed out roads, damaged businesses, and flooded homes across northwest Florida. Your Better Business Bureau of Northwest Florida offers tips to help avoid a second disaster after the storm. 

Tips for flood damage clean-up:

- Call your insurance agent immediately to file a claim.

- Take photos of any water saturation. 

- Discard or clean all wet items within 48 hours.

Tips for hiring a repair contractor: 

- Research trustworthy businesses.

- Get multiple bids.

- Take your time signing a contract.

- Avoid paying a large sum upfront. 
- Beware of door-to-door solicitations. 

To check the reliability of a business and find trustworthy businesses, start with

Students Help Restore Critical Habitat Along Choctawhatchee Bay

Throughout the 2013-2014 school year, around 2,000 students from Okaloosa and Walton counties participated in Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s Grasses in Classes Program. The program encourages students to develop an interest in the local environment by growing shoreline grasses at their school. Throughout May, these students will see the hands-on, science program full circle by taking a field trip to Choctawhatchee Bay. Rotating through stations, students will not only explore the habitat they learned about all year, but will also plant their smooth cordgrass at a restoration site. For details, visit

EMS Recognized with Silver Award

Just in time for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week May 18-24, Okaloosa County has received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Award that recognizes its commitment and success in implementing specific quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who suffer a severe heart attack known as a STEMI (ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction). Agencies that receive the Mission: Lifeline Silver award have demonstrated at least 75 percent compliance for each required achievement measure for the entire year, and treat at least eight STEMI patients for the year. For details, visit

English Named 2014 Public Safety Telecommunicator of the Year
Okaloosa County Telecommunicator of the Year for 911 Communications Division is Lori English. English was selected during National Public Safety Telecommunicators’ Week April 13-19. She is seen here with County Administrator Ernie Padget (left) and Public Safety Director Dino Villani. For more information, please contact the Okaloosa County Public Safety Department at (850) 651-7150 or the 311 Citizens Information Line.

Children in Crisis, “Voted Finest Charity on the Emerald Coast”
Children in Crisis (CIC) was voted by the Northwest Daily News supporters and community as the Finest Charity on the Emerald Coast. Dr. Judy Manning, CIC Operations Director; Laura Moore, CIC Office Manager; Penny Minnamon, CIC Teen Transition Coordinator; Ken Hair, CIC President & CEO; Roberta Welch, CIC Programs Supervisor; and Travis Hill, CIC Volunteer & Events Coordinator, celebrated the award, during HarborWalk Village’s Finest on the Emerald Coast Celebration. For details, visit

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