VIP Destin - Jan21 - 2ndRev

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Available in Destin, exclusively at Emerald Lady Jewelry  E C P • S  • D, FL  -- • ELJ.

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Volume XVIII • Issue I

events 13 Walton Chamber Holiday Networking Lunch 16 Merry Little Mixer 24 Destin Christmas Parade 37 MKAF CEO Announcement & Awards Ceremony 40 Bowling for Business 47 Destin Business After Hours 53 Women’s Council of Realtors Awards 58 J Leon Studio Ribbon Cutting 64 Walton County Business After Hours 68 Crispy Warriors Merry Christmas Party

departments 19 26 43 50 56 61 66 70 72 74

Destin Quarters Swizzle Coastal Cuisine Destin Style May We Suggest Locale Adventure Out Give Care Share Save the Date I Am Destin

features 29 Weddings Check out 2020 weddings from some of the area’s most exceptional wedding venues.

VIP Destin Magazine Staff

on the cover Ashley Cole

Photography by Hannah Berryhill Miller Be Light Photography at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort

Publisher Greg Alexander

Art Director Priscilla Atkins

Associate Publisher Verla Price

Contributing Writers/ Photographers Greg Alexander Zhalman Harris Shanna Magnuson Verla Price Anna Stockton Jeff Watson

Editor Jeff Watson Advertising Stephanie Alvarez Verla Price Jeff Waton Publisher’s Assistant Anna Stockton

VIP Founder Jeff Watson

January 2021 | 9

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letter from the Associate Publisher Brides have been thinking about their wedding for so long they might not remember when the planning started. In actuality, the big day has been in the planning since young girls wobbled along in their mother’s high heels with a curtain draped over their head. In honor of years of envisioning your wedding, we dedicate this issue of VIP Destin Magazine to wedding planning. My favorite read this issue, Coastal Cuisine, presents some new wedding fare ideas from the teasing appetizers to the white tiered cake. Swizzle showcases a mobile beverage service based in Pensacola, “Tap The Coast.” A professionally equipped signature bar serves various alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and sports a digital video/photo booth with instant share. With travel restrictions looming again in the spring Adventure Out takes us to Coldwater Gardens, offering a unique honeymoon getaway close to the Emerald Coast. Spending nights in an elaborate treehouse would be my idea of a perfect adventurous start to a new life together. While reminiscing about my childhood dress-up days, I decided to take Destin Style back in time. Starting in the ‘20s, writing about the history of headpieces to the present day. The ever-changing headpieces are a fashionable addition to the bride’s overall presentation. Due to COVID over the last year, some weddings were scheduled, canceled, rescheduled; some people just decided to hold off until next year, and some went on as planned – but with modifications that never would have been anticipated. With ceremonies and celebrations erased from calendars due to shutdowns, three brides in particular managed dream weddings by working closely with the Emerald Grande, Hilton, and Sandestin to stay within the gatherings guidelines. These fairy tale stories start on page 29. In between the pages dedicated to our Bridal Issue, you will find the relentless, hard-working people who organize fundraisers continuing the support of local causes. Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation announced the new CEO, Maestro Demetrius Fuller at The Henderson to a socially distanced room. The Destin Chamber hosted a mini-bowling tournament for local business people and a few outside networking events were covered in this issue as well. Give Care Share takes us to an interview with Alicia Skolrood, Board President Guardian Ad Litem Foundation (GAL), also known as Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in some states. Learn about the funding of this organization and the challenges they face in the upcoming year. We look to Locale on page 61 to learn about a unique space where students of Northwest Florida State College can learn farm-to-table culinary techniques and innovative green practices at the Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse and other interesting area news. In closing, we bring back Destin Quarters as we showcase a magnificent beachfront home that set a new record for the most expensive residential home sale on 30A. The grand home encompasses 9,790 square-feet with eight bedrooms, nine and one half-bathrooms, over 60 feet of private beach, two private saltwater pools, pool deck with a covered spa, Bocce ball court, and a two car garage carriage house. I hope you enjoy our first issue in 2021. As we move into the new year, I ask that you continue to support the local charities, shop local, and give what you can of yourself to your family and friends.

Associate Publisher 10


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VIP Destin at FOOW


Holiday Networking Lunch


photos & story by Shanna Magnuson

Brenda Gray & Larry Greene

he Holiday Networking lunch hosted by the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce took place at FOOW (Fish Out of Water) restaurant in Watercolor on December 2. Attendees gathered in the upstairs room for a fun afternoon with games and catching up with local business owners all while enjoying the gorgeous views of the Gulf. The Blake at Miramar Beach sponsored this month’s luncheon. It was a cozy holiday event that got everyone moving around the room, meeting new people, smaller game tables were set up for team building exercises. The event wrapped up with giveaways and raffles by the local businesses. Everyone agreed it was a great way to get in touch again, in person, with other people in the community. FOOW, a large family-style restaurant and bar overlooking the Gulf, is a gem along 30A. It has the perfect setting for the coastal, fun, relaxed feel with high-quality service and cuisine that it’s known for. Dustin Parkman, director of restaurants spoke about how happy they are to be back involved in the community and making the locals comfortable and welcome during this time.

Kari Painter & Melissa Anderson

Donna Montalvo & Kelly Jasen

Hallie Oalde & Harley Sampson Jr.

Gabrielle Kilgore & Dustin Parkman

Jimy Thorp & Jimmy Dallas

Meghan Brown, Christina Bryce & Khaliqa Wheatley January 2021 | 13

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VIP Destin at Walton Area Chamber Holiday Networking Lunch

CJ Lydon & Chelsea Fox

Katie Looney, Chuck Mitchell, Sierra Peterson & Ben Dowby

Susan Connor & Meghan Byers

Allison Smith & Megan Harrison

Jennifer Falk, Kevin Jones & Andy Watkins 14

Emily Hunt & Nogah Winfield

Alexis Tibbetts & Mark Wendel

Stephanie Jordan & Julie Belcher

Angie Resiak & Beth Clavier


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Melissa Beadle & Angie Wagoner

Jeff Watson & Hannah Green

Heidi Steeves & Harley Sampson Jr.

Lisa Foster, Keli Carter & Karen Morris January 2021 | 15

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VIP Destin at Emerald Grande

Kristen & Will Eason

Merry Little Mixer photos & story by Zhalman Harris


he joint Young Professionals Christmas party tradition continued for 2020, this year with the event taking place at Emerald Grande’s HarborView Lounge. Young Professionals from the Destin and Fort Walton Beach areas were in attendance for this festive, holiday event, which took place on Thursday, December 3. The festivities kicked off at 5:30pm. The happy hour style event included music, prizes, appetizers provided by Emerald Grande, and a lot of fun and networking. The YP is a committee of each, the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Walton Beach Chamber, that focuses on helping young professionals grow their careers, build the community, and connect with each other.

Dana Bridges & Matt Williams


Katie O’Brien & Lauren Shold

Shelby Desoto, Stacey Young, Rachel Valasquez & Chelsea Conley

Isaac Gonzalez & Daylin Beauchamp

Megan & Chris Schultz

Britt & Mat Greenwood


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Francia T. Squatrito, DPM, FACFAS, CWSP Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Alyssa Barnett, Cali Hlavac & Micha Everett

Smiling toes and happy feet are our specialty. Ada Bowman, Brittnay Therese & Cassy DeJulio

We would appreciate your nominations for Best Podiatrist Call Today to Make an Appointment 850-855-4048

Accepting New Patients

Open Monday - Thursday 8AM - 5PM, Friday 7AM - 3PM James Ruckel, Rick Scheel & Lionel James

Treatment and Specialty Include: • Bunion and Hammertoe Surgery • Arthritis • Ankle Sprains • Fractures • Tendon and Ligament Reconstruction • Plantar Fasciitis • Heel Spur Syndrome

Elizabeth Eulberg, Dakota Schwartz & Morgan Meszaros

• Achilles Tendinitis • Adult and Pediatric flatfoot • Lateral Ankle Instability • Diabetic Foot Care • Ingrown Toenails • Warts • Wound care • Sports Injuries

1775 Lewis Turner Blvd. • Fort Walton Beach (close to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center) January 2021 | 17

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Welcome to Paradise


story by Greg Alexander

| photos by Alex Dossey & Layne Lillie Photography

nce you take a look at this home, it will be no surprise that the magnificent beachfront home set a new record for the most expensive residential home sale on 30A. The four-story Gulf-front home in the gated community of Paradise by the Sea was masterfully designed by architects from A BOHEME Design and constructed by EarthBuild, LLC. The grand home encompasses 9,790 square-feet with eight bedrooms, nine and one half-bathrooms, over 60 feet of private beach, two private saltwater pools, pool deck with a covered spa, Bocce ball court, and two car garage carriage house. The off-market property sold in less than 60 days for $15.95 million and with mysteriously anonymous buyers. But what lucky folks they will be to call this sumptuous property home. When entering the portico gate to the property, the masterpiece of design and luxury captures your every sense with the semi-formal gardens of evergreen bordered palms and a remarkable pathway to the home’s front entrance lined with Italian cypress and grand, tree fi lled urns.

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As you enter the 26-foot-tall foyer filled with natural light, a custom floating staircase surrounded by Venetian plaster will astonish every architecture and design nerd. The original owners worked closely with A BOHEME Design to create a most unique direct line of sight from the foyer, across the reflecting pool, through to the Gulf of Mexico. They selected high caliber design professionals to execute their vision, with landscape architecture design by Kendall Horne and interior design curated by Melanie Turner Interiors of Atlanta. Shellstone flooring is placed throughout the interior and exterior of the ground floor while Belgian White Oak 10” plank flooring by Francois & Co. is showcased throughout the rest of the home. They say the heart of every home is in the kitchen. That is true here too, but, with views and decadence at every turn it is tough to single out one room. The chef’s kitchen highlighted by a backsplash of handmade mosaic tile from Morocco hosts a butler’s pantry, four Shaw’s porcelain sinks, SUB-ZERO, Wolf and Miele appliances, a La Cornue CornuFé 110 Range, and a custom painted Karpaty Cabinets glass hood, all combined to make any professional chef giddy. A residential elevator is available to transport the owners to any of the four floors. There are two primary suites with impressive views of the stunning turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There are 20


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also plenty of nooks for sitting and viewing activity on the Gulf. Although one could escape to the home’s library for some solace, there is no need as the entire space feels tranquil with the calming design scheme of natural whites and blues with extremely unique lighting fixtures. The remarkable tiles and mosaics warm each of the bathroom spaces complemented with gold-toned plumbing fixtures. Not much work may be done in the home office space as three of its walls provide very distracting views of the Gulf of Mexico. The upper deck area allows for serene views and quiet conversation with the artificial turf and lush outdoor seating. Below, the covered outdoor space is an extension of the main floor with arched views of the Gulf as you overlook the main pool. With closets to die for, space aplenty – both indoors and out, a gourmet kitchen, and breathtaking views in each direction, all just steps away from your very own beach with some of the world’s whitest sand and most beautiful emerald waters, there is simply no reason to ever leave.

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Rosemary Beach Realty’s Jonathan Clark and Ashlee Mitchell of the Clark & Mitchell Group, together with Broker Amanda Hampel, brokered the sale of this property. “We were extremely pleased with the immediate response and the amount of interest we received through our private marketing efforts for this spectacular property,” said Jonathan Clark. “We are really thrilled to have represented the owners to achieve this record-breaking sale.” January 2021 | 23

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Destin Christmas Parade


photos & story by Jeff Watcon

he City of Destin provided some excitement and holiday enthusiasm while being mindful of the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions as the 36th annual “Joy to the World� Destin Christmas Parade rolled through town on Saturday, December 12. The floats lined up at the Downtown Destin Shopping Center and proceeded west down Harbor Boulevard ending at Stahlman Avenue. Spectators watched from the north side of Harbor Boulevard on the beautiful Saturday morning. Parade participants were diligent to participate while also following safety protocols to bring this popular, annual event to life.



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Setting the Bar Higher story by Greg Alexander photos provided by Melissa Wilson Photography, Aislinn Kate Photography - Associate Photographer, Perla Martinez,


Indie Pearl Photography, and Megan Munoz Photography

ap he Coast has literally set the bar higher for events in the Panhandle and South Alabama. They are a mobile beverage service based in Pensacola with a small fleet of fanciness that is sure to take your party to the next level. In addition to signature bars, they also feature a digital video / photo booth with instant share. Notice, we said “signature” … because their services are far from ordinary. Each of their unique mobile bars have a classic, timeless feel with modern features and design that culminate in an experiential, personalized, upscale service for all occasions. Professionally equipped to serve beer, wine, champagne, cocktails, coffee, and a variety of other non-alcoholic drinks for your indoor or outdoor event for 50 or 200, they have a bar and professional bartenders to help you throw the ultimate party. Whether using their Signature Mobile Bar, Double Tap Wall, or Mini Bar Cart, Tap the Coast can curate the perfect beverages for your events, taking all that stress away. Using the finest and most unique ingredients, they help to tell the story of the couple at a wedding in custom ways by incorporating the beer that they may have drank on their first date or during a memorable football game. They can create a signature drink and provide a beverage menu that connects and reflects each celebration’s uniqueness.

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Specializing in weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, showers, and all other private events, Tap the Coast was founded in 2019 by Dannon and Christopher Hooks, a husband/wife team with a mission to create memorable experiences for life’s unforgettable moments, realized while planning their own wedding. Drawing from their own experience in event planning and business management, the couple set out to make their dream a reality. With a little luck, they found the perfect vintage camper to renovate and tackled the project as weekend warriors, completing the build on their own in five months. Serendipitously, Chris is one of those guys who innately knows how to do everything. After creating his own business, Spotless Logistics, Dannon knew she had the perfect partner for her concept stating, “Acting as the Chip to my Joanna Gaines, we set out to transform trailers into bars. Through trials and errors, and a few hiccups along the way, in October of 2019, we had our first event, and Tap the Coast was born.” After seeing instant demand, they added to their services by converting a horse trailer into a mobile bar with a completely different set up and configuration than the camper. With a clear design plan in mind, they were able to transform the trailer in just 90 days, just six months after their initial launch. Determined not to let the COVID pandemic stymie their new business, they became creative and found ways to offer safe and healthy experiences. Phase III is now underway with more builds to come. Their future includes adding additional rental options and a variety of bar styles to meet the needs of events large and small, from the beach to barns. They are committed to being leaders in the mobile beverage service industry and are members of Mobile Bev. Pros, a community of mobile

bar owners, where they have learned, connected with other owners, and established best practices for their business to provide “top shelf” experiences and service. Transforming a vintage 1975 Serro Scotty camper into a modern style mobile bar required vision and a lot of work. Dannon is proud of the business that she conceived and put heart and soul into creating with locally sourced materials, supporting local businesses. She notes, “This business is so much more than a bar with kegs hooked up and covered in cute tile. It’s a labor of the heart and an act of service we want to share with the communities of the Gulf Coast.” Also important to Dannon is the relationships that have blossomed from clients. She has been there for businesses that hired her for their grand openings and launches, and many times, those have evolved into products and services that she is able to use as vendors and recommend to her clients. See a full list of offerings and services at January 2021 | 27

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RENT THE STUDIO FOR A LASH APPLICATION PARTY- 9 PRIVATE ROOMS Now Offering Face and Brow Waxing, Brow Tinting, Lash Tinting, and NEW Brow Lamination Services Semi-Permanent Eyelash Extensions and Lash Lifts, 7 Days A Week 34940 Emerald Coast Pkwy Suite 108 - Near Best Buy and Michaels in Destin

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Celebrate with Newlyweds of Destin as they share their big day. XX Wedding Splash.indd 1

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Haley Scudder & Carlos Brown In the Beginning Please tell us a little about how you met… Carlos and I met through mutual friends in 2005 right before our senior year in high school. We became close friends and remained friends through college. Carlos played football for the University of Michigan so I went up to visit a few times to support my friend at the Big House! After graduation, I landed a summer internship in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and coincidentally, Carlos was picked up as a free agent by the Bucs so we both spent part of the summer on the same NFL team, must’ve been fate! When did you know he was the one for you? Since we had been such close friends, it made having a relationship easy and fun. We both share a love of traveling, food, and trying new restaurants...especially BBQ! We are both super independent and enjoy just relaxing at home, too. We even each other out perfectly.

The Big Day Please give details about the ceremony… Our backdrop was the beautiful Gulf. We knew we didn’t need much more than that. Our ceremony was short and sweet. My cousin is a pastor and he married us. It was important to us to honor those who played an important part in our lives. We felt it was really important to incorporate family and love in our ceremony, because that’s how we became the couple we are today.

photography by Olimb Photography

Were there any funny moments during the ceremony? It rained earlier in the day so when the rain moved out, unexpected 9-10MPH winds moved in and the wind was whipping like crazy! I wore a cathedral veil and it was blowing everywhere. Thankfully my Matrons of Honors were trying to keep it tamed for me, it did go astray a few times during the ceremony. We were supposed to have greenery down the aisle in the ceremony, but the wind was not letting that happen.

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Did you use something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue? Old – my mom’s diamond tennis bracelet. New – my earrings and shoes. Borrowed – my hair comb was borrowed from a family friend that had also worn this in her wedding. Blue – My garter had my new initials monogrammed in light blue.

Happily Ever After Where did you honeymoon? We are aiming for Spring 2021 and planning for Hawaii! Where will you reside when you return? We currently live in Suwanee, GA.

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Married On September 27, 2020 Ceremony Location The Sunset Deck at the Hilton Parents of the Bride Bud & Vicki Scudder Parents of the Groom Carl & Mary Brown Attending Guests 135 First Dance Song “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett

Newlyweds of Destin

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Ashley Mayes & Jake Cole In the Beginning Please tell us a little about how you met… We met in Nashville at a park while Jake was in town for the weekend and I was currently living in Music City. Tell us about the proposal… Jake proposed to me in Nashville on the last night before I moved to Destin. Jake was already living at the beach and while we discussed our future together we knew we wanted to say “I Do” in our new home area.

The Big Day Please give details about the ceremony… Jake’s Granddaddy is 90 years old and was our officiant. The ceremony was so meaningful and faithful. I also had one of my close friends, Nora Collins, play her guitar and sing while the bridal party and Bride entered the ceremony and then she played another song as we exited. I was so blessed to have my family and friends there through all of the COVID and hurricane struggles leading up to the wedding. Were there any funny moments during the ceremony? I almost lost my veil due to the wind - we had Hurricane Sally come through the week of the wedding and being right by the Bay, we caught a lot of weather. Jake and I were also very nervous for the first dance because it was a surprise that we had learned a dance together and we didn’t know how the dips and lifts would go in my wedding dress. We laughed a lot on the dance floor having fun and singing along. Did you use something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue? Something new - Kendra Scott earrings from my parents Something old & borrowed - my Grandma’s ring Something blue - Wendy Pearls/Seaglass

Happily Ever After Where did you honeymoon? Bungalows Key Largo & Key West

photography by Be Light Photography

Where will you reside when you return? We currently live in Santa Rosa Beach.

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Married On September 19, 2020 Ceremony Location Bayview Room & Terrace in Sandestin Parents of the Bride Rick & Michelle Mayes Parents of the Groom Rob & Jan Cole Attending Guests 80 First Dance Song “All This Time ” by One Republic Choreographed by Fred Astaire Dance Studio

Newlyweds of Destin

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Allison Schildhauer & Samuel Phillips In the Beginning Please tell us a little about how you met… In true millennial fashion, we met on Bumble! We then found out that we lived at the very same apartment complex! When did you know he was the one for you? It is hard to pin-point a moment in time, but the first time he brought me flowers (I am a sucker for flowers), it solidified that I knew I was in love! Tell us about the proposal… I flew to meet him in Osaka, Japan, on the tail end of one of his work trips. We took a walk and we took a “short-cut” through a rose garden! He found the perfect bench with roses surrounding it and popped the question!

The Big Day How did you decide on this location? Sam and I toured The Emerald Grande back in May of 2020. The view over the harbor was to die for, and as soon as I saw the grand staircase I would be walking down, I knew I had to get married there. Please give details about the ceremony… Simple and sweet! Our best friend married us, which was our favorite part! My veil did fly off due to the wind, but it’s now a sweet memory! Were there any funny moments during the ceremony? My veil flying off was definitely the highlight of “funny” things during the ceremony! Honestly, it had zero effect on how amazing the ceremony/day was. Did you use something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue? Yes! My something old was my mom’s old wedding band. My something new was my wedding dress. My something borrowed was my mom’s diamond earrings and my something blue was my light blue painted toes!

Happily Ever After

photography by Brittney Culpepper - Sass & Soul

Where did you honeymoon? We spent a couple extra days in Destin. We will honeymoon in 2021 in the form of tacking on extra days to weddings that we are attending in Spain and Prague.

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Married On November 7, 2020 Ceremony Location The Captain’s Deck at The Emerald Grande Parents of the Bride Joseph & Jean Schildhauer Parents of the Groom Bill & Pat Phillips Attending Guests 100 First Dance Song “Conversations In The Dark” by John Legend

Newlyweds of Destin

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VIP Destin at The Henderson

CEO Announcement & Awards Ceremony photos & story by Zhalman Harris


arcia Hull served as CEO of the Mattie Kelly Art Foundation for 22 years. December 10 marked a new beginning for the organization when she passed the baton to the new CEO, Maestro Demetrius Fuller. The event was held at The Henderson in Destin where a handful of individuals, including the media and community heads, were invited to be a part of the announcement ceremony. Before announcing her successor, Marcia emotionally told the guests in the room, “Today marks a new chapter in my journey through life.” To break the ice, she went on by saying jokingly, when she first met her successor he looked like a 12 year old boy, and she had the photos to show it. “What comes to mind when I think of my successor is that he is inspiring, energetic, innovative, and a highly talented artistic director who brings first class acts and events to his audience,” she said. When Demetrius took to the podium, he first showed his appreciation to the community for their support, and asked them to continue because they were a huge part of the success of the arts in this area. He thanked Marcia for championing the arts and said he was looking forward to a better 2021 after the year we’ve had so far. A few individuals, including Denise Kendust, Todd Wilkenson, Tracy Louthain, and Kevin Boyer, were all recipients of awards for their outstanding work and contributions to MKAF.

Demetrius Fuller & Marcia Hull

Tim Krueger & Hillaree Durso

Maxine Orange Bern & Shantelle Dedicke

Anne Hinze, Kate Kelly, Beth Clavier, Demetrius Fuller, Marcia Hull, Deb Nissley, Melanie Moore & Aaron Vaughn January 2021 | 37

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VIP Destin at MKAF CEO Announcement & Awards Ceremony

Stacey Young & Kerry Sutsko

Denise Kendust & Verla Price

Gloria Deberry & Denise Song

Jeanne Dailey & Tracy Louthain

Jeff Dannelly, Teresa Halverson & Shane Moody 38

Kevin Boyer & Bill Lindsley

Kelli Carter & Karen Morris

Dave & Marcia Hull

Allen & Tracy Wood

Melanie Moore, Deb Nissley & Jenifer Tomasello


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VIP Destin at Hurricane Lanes

Rinn Garlanger, Janae Erickson, Shantelle Dedicke & Hillaree Durso

Bowling for Business photos & story by Zhalman Harris


Cody Burlinger, Tammy Eunice, Josh Flenniken & Chris Wallace

ver 50 business men and women from the Destin area participated in a mini-bowling tournament on December 4 at Hurricane Lanes in Destin during their lunch break. The Destin Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event by challenging their members to a mini “Bowling for Business” tournament, mixed with a little business networking. After a fun, competitive afternoon, those who emerged as winners of the tournament were Cody Garlanger from BOTE – taking Top Male spot, Tatiana Kakliauskus from Warren Averett - taking Top Female, and the Top Team of the day was Jason Hall and his posse from Five Channels. The lowest score won a $50 gift card from BOTE. That proud winner was Andy Brown of Anderson Engineering.

Austin Jennings, Tera & Brian Keister, Jason & Desiree Hall

Andrea Dozier, Chris Miller, Alissa Riley, Jason Allen & Seth Broussard 40

Tami & Evan Groth, Ashley Bowen & Rachel Spencer


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Brenda Gray & Jeff Welch

Troy Jostrom & Allen Meyers

Debbie Eggers & Jim Wood

Alyssa Tidwell, Branden Crosby & Tatiana Kakliauskas January 2021 | 41

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Catering Creatively Customize Your Big Day story by Anna Stockton


eddings have come a long way from the perfectly orchestrated, flawless yet boring days of baked chicken in a hotel ballroom. Today’s weddings are about fun and incorporating the guests in the festivities. The sky is the limit and creativity is encouraged, especially with these current food trends.

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Waffles and Omelettes and Mimosas Oh My! Brunch is more popular than ever. Who doesn’t like to drink their way through a Sunday? Many money savvy couples are choosing the daytime wedding route and serving brunch at the reception. Not only is it a crowd pleaser, it’s also a less expensive way to treat your guests. Waffle stations, bloody mary bars, and beautiful fruit platters are a good way to treat your guests to a high-end spread without the high-end price.

Late Night Snacks Weddings in general tend to make even the lightest drinker indulge a bit more than usual. Whether it be an open bar or the liquid courage you need to shake it to “Uptown Funk” on the dance floor, wedding drinking can mean a long night of debauchery. But brides and grooms are coming to the rescue of their gleeful guests by providing late night snacks at the end of the reception. Burgers, fries and even pizzas are becoming the go-to to send your guests home with good memories and a full belly. Don’t believe me just watch…..

You’re Bacon Me Crazy Have a favorite food? Share it with your guests by making it a theme at your reception. For instance, if you love bacon. Have an assortment of bacon prepared differently, like candied or smoked bacon. How about taking it a step further and have bacon donuts or a bacon cocktail. Maybe French fries are your jam, set up a French fry station with different types of fries and all the fixins to dress them up. Your guests will thank you for it!

Comfortably Elegant Comfort food all dressed up is another way couples are making their guests happy. Mac and Cheese in elegant silver bowls, sliders served in monogrammed pouches and even an upscale pasta bar are all ways to bring a warm welcome to your guests and give them plenty of energy to dance the night away.

From the Garden to the Guests Another way couples are changing up the traditional reception fare is putting an emphasis on locally grown and organic foods. Caterers are seeing an upswing in requests for local favorites, whether it be in-season fruit from a local market or farm, freshly picked vegetables, even locally harvested seafood. A nice touch is to place a little sign in front each item with the name and location the item came from. This will wow your guests and will hopefully have them thinking local as well.

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Barnyard Bliss With the popularity of barn weddings at an all-time high, going rustic is a great way to carry the theme throughout your big day. Family style food bars with homestyle food are sure to please everyone, especially your more picky guests as they get to choose what they’d like to eat. Go one step further and have a local honey and jams to complement your meal.

Bring It On Home Maybe you’ve moved away and are getting married far away from your hometown. That doesn’t mean your hometown can’t come to you with what you serve at your wedding. If you grew up on the Gulf Coast but are getting married elsewhere, offer flights of beer from the Gulf Coast breweries or Gulf caught shrimp as an appetizer. If you’re a transplant from California, maybe a tasting of some California wines or some of those amazing SoCal tacos.

Just Truck It The Gulf Coast has some amazing food trucks. These meals on wheels show up in neighborhoods and breweries so why shouldn’t they make an appearance at your wedding too? Especially if you have a barn type wedding where tables can be set up outside, this is a perfect way to bring everyone together while enjoying a fun spin on the traditional wedding food. If you’d like to really wow your guests, finish up the meal with a surprise appearance by an ice cream truck.

Let Them Eat Cake….. Again Remember when everyone was doing something different for wedding cakes? Cupcakes, doughnuts, and even pies were fun alternatives to cake, not anymore. We’re back to cakes y’all! Pinterest and other sites are making it easy for a couple to pick the cake they like and have a baker make it to their specifications, down to every detail. Personalizing the traditional and getting the cake of their dreams.

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VIP Destin at BOTE

Destin Chamber of Commerce

Business after Hours photos & story by Zhalman Harris


he Destin Chamber of Commerce held their final Business after Hours for 2020, at BOTE Destin. The fun, holiday celebratory event was held on December 17 and sponsored by BOTE. The event began at 5 p.m. and culminated with door prizes at 6:30. Guests enjoyed delicious appetizers from AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar while Dan and Becca of Black Eyed Blonde provided live music. Matt Butler was the winner of the BOTE Paddleboard. The Vice President of Destin Chamber of Commerce, Elizabeth Spies thanked guests for coming and helping to make the business community thrive in 2020 regardless of the pandemic, and also thanked BOTE for sponsoring the all-important event of the year. The Destin Chamber of Commerce prides itself as a catalyst for successful businesses and a vibrant economy. The Chamber provides products and services to its member businesses helping them grow and prosper. The Chamber acts as the voice of business in government affairs. Governed by a volunteer board of directors and operated by a professional staff, the Chamber works daily to ensure that businesses have what they need to flourish.

Brittany Passmore & Christy Rightley

Susie Wetzel & Magda Cooper

Lindsey Polk & Ashley Voisin

Matt & Jacqui Luberto

Dion Monis, Elizabeth Spies, Debbie Eggers & Cassy DeJulio January 2021 | 47

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VIP Destin at Business After Hours


Chris Blumenthal, Dennis Weber & Katy Sarubbi

Carmen Wilkenson, Josh Foster & Brodie Bowman

Teresa Allen, Kate Price & Peggy Moravec

Skip Overdier, Robert Bonhardt & Fred Fenn

Marie DiGiovine & Deborah Bruce

Brian & Erin Liesveld

Ivana Coteat & Trisha Marks

Aline Ibanes & Stacey Young

Jan Sirmans, Taylor Barry, Claire Maisel & Mariah Kersanac


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Selen Yalcin, Jeff Watson & Ada Bowman

Matt Luberto & Chris Wallace

Kevin & Natalie Schmidt, Dion Moniz

Suzy Spence, Cherish Williams, Jamie Camp & Mary Mann January 2021 | 49

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To Top it all Off…

Traditional headpieces from veils, to hats, to crowns! story by Verla Price


rides have been adorning their heads from ancient times to the modern-day, creatively using hairstyles, veils, hats, and crowns, to achieve a signature look on their special day. Many brides spend almost as much time thinking about covering their heads … or not, as they do when searching for a unique dress. We decided to go back in time and visit the head covering trends created by brides over the years. The veil dates back to the days of arranged marriages; the veil was used to cover the bride’s face from the groom until he said, “I do.” The veil was also seen as a statement of the innocence of the bride. Wedding veils transformed through the years from covering the face to hanging serenely off the back of the bride’s head. There are many lengths to consider, from shoulder length to the Royal, which flows behind the bride to over 120 inches.


Veils gave way in the ‘20s to the Juliet Cap, a lace cloche headdress. Most were made of silk materials and decorated with flowers that matched the bouquet. The Juliet was prominent through the ‘30s but with fewer embellishments. The ‘40s brought small birdcage veils used to flatter just the head of the bride.


The 1950s presented tight-fitting skullcap veils and waist-length veils to accent the tiny-waisted brides. Through the years, adding length was used to achieve a more dramatic look.



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In the 1960s, height was the rave. Veils were worn high on the head coming out of a beehive hairstyle or hooked to pillbox hats. The higher, the better! Towering veils fell to a more long flowy style in the ‘70s tying to the flower power revolution. Brides started throwing veils to the wind opting for flower wreaths or wide-brimmed hats. The Juliet cap even made a comeback in the ‘70s.


Princess Diana’s epic 153-yard veil hooked to her tiara spun soon to be brides out of control and longer veils became the rave. Hence, the cathedral length veil was born. An extensive array of hats also appeared in this era. Hats were sitting high on the head and low on the nape with billowing veils following along behind.


A plethora of choices allowed the ‘90’s bride to start the headpiece revolution that lasts through today. You will see veils of all lengths along with hats, crowns, tiaras, beads, and more creative options topping off the modern bride. Pulling from years past for ideas, no matter what they decided to wear, brides today are “on trend” even if they go without a headpiece. Freedom from tradition is now the tradition for the bride’s headpiece.

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VIP Destin at The Henderson

Awards & 2021 Installation Ceremony


Lisa Medley & Annie Sweeney

photos & story by Zhalman Harris

he installation and awards ceremony of the Women’s Council of Realtors of Emerald Coast was held on December 10 at The Henderson. During the event guests enjoyed photo booth fun, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and complimentary headshots for agents who were in need of new ones for 2021. The newly installed Board of Directors for 2021 were Rachel Simerly - President, Daniele Hamrick - President Elect, Sherrie Salas -Treasurer, Jessica Forrester - Secretary, Megan Waldstein - Director of Events, Angela Passehl - Director of Membership, and Mendy Gregory -Director of Strategic Partners. Awards of the evening went to Allison Richards for Entrepreneur of the Year, Strategic Partner of the Year - Reli Title LLC was accepted by Lori Ogles and Megan Waldstein, Michelle Bailey took the Judy Sheridan Memorial-Heart of Women’s Council Award, and the Rising Star of the year Award went to Sherrie Salas.

Craig Faust & Pam Woodall

Ashley Smith & Rachel Spencer

Sonnet Singleton & Jenny Lus

Liz Horton & Kevin Kramer

Dannielle Hamrick & Angela Passehl

Lexi Salas, Megan Waldstein, Tara Johnson & Carmen Ionoscu January 2021 | 53

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VIP Destin at Women’s Council of Realtors Awards & Installation Ceremony

Jacqui Luberto & Jessica Forrester

Barb Sipperly, Melinda Vazquez & Kitty Taylor

Lori Ogles & Sherri Salas

Kevin Gilbert & David Howell

Ashley Bowen, Kevin Kramer & Lori Ward 54

Jutta & Jamie Schneider

Nick & Megan Waldstein

Liz Midland & Hannah Simerly

Alexis Bolin, Charmaine Hickey & Cheryl Young


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VIP Destin Magazine proudly supports:

At VIP Destin Magazine we are strong supporters of the non-profits that showcase the generosity of our area. Part of our inherent mission is to spread good will. We have contributed over $250,000 of valuable publicity and in kind donations to help fulfill the many needs of the non-profits in our community. Thank you for supporting us so that we may pay it forward.

Alaqua Aletha’s Legacy Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation Autism Center E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center BLM

Sinfonia Breast Cancer Children in Crisis

Children’s Volunteer Health Network Costa Enterprises

Cultural Arts Alliance Destin Chamber of Commerce

Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation

Destin Rotary Club Destin Woman’s Club Dog-Harmony Earth Day Network Emerald Coast Out of the Darkness Emerald Coast Theatre Company Impact 100

Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center

Festival of the Arts Fisher House Food for Thought Fore Her Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce Emerald Coast Foundation La Lumière HCA Community Foundation Habitat for Humanity Healing Paws for Warriors K9’s for Warriors Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation ReStore Military Appreciation Council Montessori Learning Center Northwest Florida Ballet Panhandle Animal Welfare Sacred Heart Foundation Save The Kids Shelter House South Walton-Covid Relief Special Olympics Florida Special Ops Transition Youth Village The Secret Place United Way Walton Area Chamber of Commerce

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Bridal Bouquets - Prices Vary Florals By The Sea

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider - Starting at $74,500 Step One Automotive Group

Custom Build Wine Racks – Prices are Quoted Hunter Wine Racks & Cellars

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Verragio V984 Engagement Ring & Wedding Band - $8,500 Two Carats of Supporting Stones (center stone sold separately) Emerald Lady Jewelry

Booking for Weddings and Bachelor Parties - Prices Vary Destin Princess Party Boat

12/30/20 9:47 AM

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VIP Destin at J. Leon Gallery & Studio

Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting photos & story by Jeff Watson photos submitted by Frances Roy Agency


ot many businesses can boast about holding a soft (and successful) opening amid a worldwide pandemic. On December 8, J.Leon Gallery + Studio held a joint chamber ribbon cutting with the Destin and Walton Chambers of Commerce. Although the gallery had opened last summer, the timing was just right to officially introduce this new business to the community. Business men and women came out for the event to meet the owner and artists. J.Leon Gallery + Studio is the area’s newest fine art destination. Born with a vision to make high-end art attainable for everyone, J.Leon supports and promotes its artists while presenting guests with unique ways to engage with and uncover their next favorite work of art. More than a gallery, J.Leon is home to a working ceramics studio and offers a robust calendar of events and classes that are in full swing. With a mantra of “Art is for everyone,” artists and art appreciators will not want to miss the opportunity to call J.Leon Gallery + Studio their creative home. The gallery features work by several artists from the Okaloosa/Walton county areas including Kathy Schumacher, Donnelle Clark, Skip Deems, Mary Redmann, Jason Lindblad, Marian Pacsuta, and Jenna Varney. Find out more at



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Joan Vienot

Jason Linblad & Angie Resiak

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LOCALE O Costa Enterprises McDonald’s Hosted Benefit Night for Kohltan Ward’s Family Costa Enterprises McDonald’s hosted benefit night on December 16 at their Niceville and Bluewater Bay locations with 20 percent of the proceeds benefiting Kohltan Ward’s family. Ward, 11, from Destin was tragically killed in October when his bike was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Main Street and Kelly Street. Since the accident, the entire community has rallied around the Ward family to support them during the aftermath of the tragedy. The Costa family knew immediately that they wanted to do something for this family, which includes his two parents and three other children all under the age of seven. “This family needs all of us now more than ever,” said David Costa. “With it being the holiday season, we know how difficult this time can be financially and not to mention emotionally for a family that has lost a child.” Guests were invited to stop by the Niceville restaurant, located at 1090 John Sims Parkway, or the Bluewater Bay location, at 4570 HWY 20 East, with 20% of sales during that time going directly toward the Ward family in honor of Kohltan. This initiative is part of Costa Cares, the Costa Enterprises McDonald’s mission to give back to the local communities surrounding their 24 locations. “We hope this brings a little bit of joy to the family and, most importantly, honors Kohltan’s legacy in our community,” Costa said.

EDC Rebrands as One Okaloosa EDC The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County (“EDC”) announced that, effective Dec. 1, the organization will be known as One Okaloosa EDC. Along with the name change, a new organizational logo

Hotel Effie Sandestin Announces February 2021 Opening and Unveiling of New Culinary Concepts by Acclaimed Chef Hugh Acheson

was unveiled. Stylized as a circle indicative of forward motion, the logo utilizes the organization’s long-standing gold, blue and green colors as a nod to the EDC’s 31-year history. Specific design elements within the new logo include a gear, representing Okaloosa’s diverse industry base; the sun, representing the area’s enviable coastal lifestyle; and an atom, representing the community’s emphasis on education and noteworthy research and innovation assets. Along with the new name and brand, the organization will also begin utilizing www. as its primary domain name with new staff email addresses structured in the same manner. In addition, all other One Okaloosa EDC managed websites have been updated accordingly. “After 31 years of being known as the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, our Executive Committee began to evaluate the opportunity for a more simplified – and impactful – organizational brand last spring just as COVID-19 was tightening its grip on our area. Noting how swiftly our local governments, businesses, non-profits and everyday citizens joined together to help one another through the unprecedented challenges brought forth by the pandemic, it was clear that our community was rising to the occasion and working as ONE Okaloosa. This is where the concept was initially born,” stated Lee Lewis, AVCON, and One Okaloosa EDC FY 2021 Chairman. “One Okaloosa speaks to a collective desire to be best-in-class and the tireless commitment of so many to ensuring that Okaloosa’s infrastructure systems, educational assets, military bases, workforce development programs and industrial sites are ranked number one,” stated Nathan Sparks, Executive Director, One Okaloosa EDC.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort plans to start 2021 in style with the opening of Hotel Effie Sandestin. After facing setbacks due to COVID-19 that delayed the 2020 opening, Hotel Effie is now confirmed to open February 1, 2021.

Located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay, Hotel Effie was designed to welcome all guests of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort to an experience that exemplifies genuine southern hospitality and exceptional service wrapped in comfortable luxury. The 250-room hotel features multiple room configurations. Taking inspiration from the locale, the fully appointed rooms and suites will welcome guests with a complement of amenities, including an upscale spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, and the only rooftop pool on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Add 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, to include a 13,000 sq. ft. ballroom, plus all of the unique offerings of the hotel and resort, and Hotel Effie is the perfect setting for a dream wedding, corporate meetings, memorable events and unforgettable vacations. “Beach to bay accommodations, shopping, dining and championship golf has attracted visitors from all around the globe,” said Sara Becnel, VP of Development and

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LOCALE O was viewed all along Destin Harbor. A spectacular fireworks show sponsored by HarborWalk Village crowned the finale of this unique Destin Christmas holiday event.

General Manager of the resort. “We are thrilled to pair these resort amenities with the luxurious, yet approachable offerings at Hotel Effie.” In an exclusive partnership with Georgia native and James Beard winning chef, Hugh Acheson, four exciting culinary outlets are planned for the hotel: Ovide, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner embracing the fresh, forward flavors and local seafood of the Gulf Coast. Ara Rooftop Pool & Lounge is both a luxurious pool experience and a stylish rooftop lounge with fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails and original menu where guests can experience the hotel’s vibrant atmosphere and energy. The Lobby Bar (TLB) is an ideal gathering place and social hub where guests can unwind over creative libations and signature small plates. Sweetbay Coffee, a coffee marketplace curated by Acheson, offering a menu of gourmet, grab-and-go selections. Hotel Effie Sandestin is managed by Highgate, a premier hospitality investment and management company whose growing portfolio includes more than 100 properties in gateway cities worldwide.

34th Annual Holiday on the Harbor Destin Lighted Boat Parade Winners The Destin History and Fishing Museum, Margaritaville, and Land Air Sea Productions hosted the 34th Annual “Holiday on the Harbor” Destin Boat Parade Sunday, December 13, 2020, where Cyron Marler of HarborWalk Village served as Master of Ceremonies. Margaritaville and Manager Adam Miles hosted the parade judges and museum board and guests. Judges for the event were: Tami GrothCommunity Bank, Marti Gardner -Okaloosa School Board, and Rich Neal -Fudpucker’s. Twenty-six Christmas spirited boaters registered for the lighted boat parade which 62

Winners in each category were: • Private 30 ft. & Under: Bluewater Bay Boats & Yachts captained by Randall Hinely • Private 31 ft. & Over: Reel Zing captained by DJ Cottrell • Charter/Commercial 30 Ft. & Under: Destin Tikis (Boom, Shaka, Laka, & Lono) captained by Captain’s Sam, Gentry, Lantz And Shawn • Charter/Commercial 31 ft. & Over: Alibi captained by Tim Baxter • Tour Boat/Motorized 50 ft. & Under: Emerald Grande Shuttle captained by Keith Stewart • Tour Boat/Motorized 51 ft. & Over: Sunny Lady Ccaptained by Alex Kent • Overall Best Entry: Southern Star captained by Jason McGregory • City of Destin Harbor Heritage Award: Southern Star captained by Jason McGregory

Museum Executive Director Kathy Marler Blue, Museum Assistant Michelle Stuart, Board President Lloyd Taylor, and Parade Committee Chairman Dennis Liberatore thanks everyone that participated in helping to light up the harbor with holiday spirit and everyone that came out to join in the beautiful display at this a wonderful Destin Holiday Tradition.

Northwest Florida State College Dedicates the Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse Northwest Florida State College celebrated the grand opening of the Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse – a unique space where

students will learn farm-to-table culinary techniques and innovative green practices on the Niceville Campus.

In late 2019, Major General (ret) Donald P. Litke, along with his daughters, Sue Farrell and Lisa Pack, donated $150,000 to establish the Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse at Northwest Florida State College to honor and memorialize their beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kay Litke. As told by the family, she was an exceptional cook and consummate hostess preparing or supervising the preparation of the meals to serve diverse palates around the world in support of her husband’s active duty military career. Her family remembers her fondly for her love of cooking and the joy she found in hosting and feeding others. “General Litke is a champion for Northwest Florida State College. We are thankful for the continued support from the entire Litke family for our students, the Culinary Arts Program, Athletics and the Arts,” said NWFSC President Dr. Devin Stephenson. “Having the Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse as a hands-on teaching facility prioritizes our commitment to environmental stewardship, civic engagement, and academic achievement.” The Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse will provide unique opportunities for NWFSC students interested in learning about alternative farming techniques, primarily hydroponics. Restaurants in the fast-casual, full-service midscale and fine dining segments of the industry are drawn to fulfi ll the wants and needs of their respective customer bases, who increasingly prefer locally grown food. By adding sustainable greenhouse operations to our curriculum, we are better able to equip our students with the skills and knowledge demanded in today’s hospitality industry.


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Sip the finest margarita Savor fresh seafood, enchiladas and more with sauces from scratch Join us for drinks, dinner, lunch or Sunday brunch

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GRAND BOULEVARD Sandestin 850.654.5649

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VIP Destin at The Gathering Spot


Kelly Webb & Sharon Agar

Business After Hours


photos & story by Shanna Magnuson

he Walton Area Chamber of Commerce, along with sponsor, Provident Title hosted the monthly Business After Hours networking event at The Gathering Spot at the WaterColor Inn on December 10. Provident Title is a full service, boutique closing and title company. President and Managing Attorney, Nathan Cordle thanked the Chamber for their support and expressed that 2020 was a year that he and company were thankful for. From 5:30-7:30 pm, attendees enjoyed the newly upgraded and designed, perfectly cozy and inviting space for an evening of networking, cocktails, appetizers, and raffles. Dustin Parkman, Director of Restaurants at WaterColor Inn thanked everyone for coming out. With the recent upgrades put into place for The Gathering, they’re hoping to have a relaxing and casual lounge setting to fi ll the need within the area and within WaterColor. The recent revamp also added changes to the menu with new small plates and handcrafted cocktails. It was a great way to see friends and local businesses before the holidays, in a setting that offered a casual and fun way to get together.

Tiffany Ashley & Paul Copeland

Kathy Brown van Zutphen & Clay Redmond

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Bill Blanken & Andrew Wheeler

Amanda Pamfilis & Monica Davey

Mary Mann, Wanda Dukee & Susie Spence


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James Sater, Amanda Edwards & Megan Harrison

Zig & Angie Resiak, Lindsay Greene


Laura Andrews, Gabrielle Kilgore-Woods & Hannah Green

David M. Rutherford *Military Discounts Available*



Jeff George & Jennifer Dodge

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Local Getaway or Honeymoon Hideout story by Liesel Schmidt


raveling in a pandemic has made everyone reconsider plans for their tropical island adventures or European getaways. Many honeymooners have had to put out-of-thecountry travel on hold for now and look for a temporary solution to celebrate their union. If you are waiting to travel big to celebrate your first anniversary and staying closer to home for honeymooning, then Coldwater Gardens is your perfect fit. Your sense of adventure can be teased without giving up your comforts from home as Coldwater Gardens has everything imaginable—and possibly more. Some may call this camping taken to the next realm, but you will not see any gimpy, nylon tents


around here because “roughing it” is not in their vocabulary. It is a place where you just show up with your hand luggage and the rest is there and ready to go. Since it opened to public in 2015, Coldwater Gardens has hosted thousands of campers— or “glampers,” as guests at this glamorous campsite would more accurately be termed— giving them the perfect way to get out and explore without having to roll out the bedroll. Admittedly, the 350 acres of land here still provides ample space for the purists who want to keep it as authentic as possible; in addition to its designated back-to-nature campsites along the edges of Coldwater Creek, the grounds also offer three types of sleeping accommodations that could even turn most girly girls into happy campers. Guests can book space in one of their glamping tents, eco-designed cottages, a tiny-house cabana, or even in their spectacularly modern tree house which could be a honeymooner’s paradise. Each of these options is nothing short of

stunning, offering everything one could possibly need to relax and enjoy a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of urban living. If you are not quite in-love with the idea of a tent? Book your stay in something with solid walls like the eco-design cottages which greatly resemble hotel suites in their spacious layouts. “Our eco-design cottages were built with comfort in mind. They’re all geo-thermally climate controlled and have full kitchens with all of the essentials as well as a king size memory foam bed, a large bathroom, a pullout leather sofa, hardwood flooring, exposed cypress both on the interior and the exterior, and a screened porch.” To satisfy your outdoorsy urges further, the cottages provide their very own fire pits, charcoal grills, and Adirondack furniture to make alfresco entertaining even more ideal. With room to comfortably accommodate four slightly intrepid nature enthusiasts, the glamping tents are somewhat palatial; boasting full electricity, a queen size memory foam bed, a mini-fridge, a coffee maker and water kettle, a wardrobe, and running lights and fans. “They’re quiet and comfortable, but they still provide you with the sense that you’re camping,” explains Coldwater Gardens manager Nick Phoenix. Just outside, each tent is equipped with a charcoal grill, a fire ring, and even outdoor furniture.


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“Coldwater Gardens provides a fresh and unique setting that combines a modern approach and style with the sublime beauty and intrigue of the woodlands of the Florida panhandle.”

While glamp tenters don’t have their own bathrooms, they share access to a centrally located bathhouse that will make you forget you are in a campground. There’s far more to Coldwater Gardens than simply taking an alternate route to camping. “Our main goal in starting Coldwater Gardens was to develop an environmentally friendly business that would help restore its 350 acres of land back to Longleaf Pine Forest, to grow quality produce for our local communities, and to provide a place where people could come and actively learn about agriculture and the environment as well as gain a better understanding of land management practices,” says Coldwater Gardens owner Rusty Erdman. With that in mind, guests at Coldwater are given the perfect point of entrance for adventuresome explorations through the forest with hiking and biking trails, private access to sandbars along the creek, and launch areas for kayaks and canoes. Its multiple gardens offer up edible delights for seasonal harvesting and picking, and Coldwater makes their plentiful produce available to guests as well as local buyers at area restaurants and farmers markets. The local chickens are yet another component of Coldwater’s mission of creating agricultural awareness. They earn their keep by supplying fresh eggs as well as a few other things that might not quickly come to mind when you think about the role that these yard

birds play in the agricultural community. “When chickens roam freely, they’re an excellent method of natural pest control in the gardens because they eat the bugs and worms that are harmful to the plants,” Phoenix explains. Naturally, all that fine dining produces something else useful: manure, which Coldwater puts to use as fertilizer. It’s a happy cycle that seems to shine in this thriving outpost of nature, so lush and green and…alive. Honeybees buzz around, actively taking their place in the Coldwater life as pollinators and producers of deliciously golden honey that can be purchased onsite. Shitake mushrooms grow heartily here, quite at home in the eco-system that Erdman and his staff have so expertly put in place. Everything is engineered with precision and purpose, from the impressively self-sustaining hydroponic gardens and aquaponics to the more humble container gardens that bear steady supplies of herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers. Coldwater Gardens provides a natural backdrop for creating truly unforgettable memories. The views all around are nothing if not incredible, overlooking the verdant landscape that bursts with boundless color and life. When the sun goes down, the stars come out to play. “Coldwater Gardens provides a fresh and unique setting that combines a modern approach and style

with the sublime beauty and intrigue of the woodlands of the Florida panhandle,” says Phoenix. “In everything we do here, we truly strive to protect and nurture the environment and provide a relaxing, rejuvenating place for people to step outside of their overlydeveloped, over-stimulated daily lives. This is a place that combines elegance, nature, agriculture, technology, and community— and we get to do all of that right here, set amidst the unmatched beauty of the northern Gulf Coast.” Coldwater Gardens is located at 7009 Creek Stone Rd., Milton, Florida 32570. For more information, call (850) 426-1300 or visit

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VIP Destin at Regatta Bay

Kay & Larry Hines

Crispy Warriors Merry Christmas Party

Tim Krueger & Patt Maney

photos & story by Zhalman Harris

T Tom & Brenda Callen

Ruth & Larry Hill

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he Crispy Warriors held their Christmas Party on December 15, at Regatta Bay in Destin, where guests enjoyed a fun evening with a lot of laughter. The event featured a 5-course dinner and a Christmas carol sing-along headed by Larry Hines and his fellas. The Crispy Warriors began in 2004 when Jerry Stalnaker, a retired Air Force F-4 fighter pilot, began inviting some local veterans to eat breakfast every Thursday morning at Harbor Docks Restaurant in Destin. Initially, the group was small and included all WW2, Korean, and Vietnam War veterans with combat experience“Warriors.” The waitresses noticed that when these Warriors ordered their bacon they specifically requested it be “crispy.” Thus, the group became known as the Crispy Warriors. Over the years the Crispys have grown to over 80 Warriors representing the five military services. The Crispys now include many men who were not veterans because the only criteria for being a Crispy is the “Love of America”.

Lydia & Murray Casey

Brenda & Skip Overdier

Jeff & Jackie Powell

Marcia Green & Robena McMahon

Kay & Westy Westenbarger

Megan Langford & Amanda Childs

Debbie & Rick Scott

Blake Krueger, Tim Krueger & Larry Hines January 2021 | 69

GI V E | C A R E | S H A R E

We are For the Children!


story by Greg Alexander

ecades Decades ago, judges presiding over child abuse and neglect proceedings throughout the country identified the need for someone within the legal process to solely prioritize the safety and well-being of the child involved. Court proceedings are sometimes complex, and judges wanted advocates who could bring a common-sense approach to the formal court process and who would put the child’s best interests first. This was the beginning of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, also known as Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in some states. Each judicial circuit in Florida has a GAL Program office and a small staff who recruit, train, and oversee the volunteer advocates. The First Judicial Circuit GAL Program includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties and the Circuit Director is Bryan Carter. Bryan leads an incredible team here locally, where over 2,000 children need support. The Northwest Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation is the support Foundation for the First Circuit GAL Program. The Board will attest that they are a working, volunteer board. The GAL Foundation also does not have any employed staff. The Foundation is comprised of leaders (most are also GAL advocates) from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Their mission is to

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| photos provided by Guardian ad Litem Foundation provide for the needs of abused, abandoned, and neglected children and to support the volunteer advocates. The Foundation works hand in hand with the Program office as they share the ultimate goal of serving the children and volunteer advocates. Likewise, the Foundation has relationships with the State GAL Foundation, but are not formally connected. The State Foundation provides valuable aid with marketing, policy, and government affairs information while the local Foundation works to support the First Judicial Circuit with support through funding and volunteering. To learn more please visit our Foundation website at NWFGAL.ORG or the Guardian ad Litem Program website at Reach out to our recruiters: Escambia and Santa Rosa County Joan Irby - – 850.637.9689 Okaloosa and Walton Counties Carita Smith – – 850.461.3877 Carol Thomas – – 850.203.6244

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Interview with Alicia Skolrood, Board President Guardian Ad Litem Foundation How is GAL Foundation funded? The GAL Foundation is fully funded through donations and fundraisers. We operate with extremely thin overhead of around 3%, using as much of the donated dollars as possible for the children in the Guardian ad Litem Program and in support of the volunteer advocates. As with every not-for-profit, the GAL Foundation was hit hard this year with fundraising limitations due to COVID-19. However, during our Christmas Campaign, we received several large donations from GAL Advocates and their families. These are individuals who already commit significant time and energy to their volunteer advocate roles and then gave even more – with their financial support. As I reflected on those donations, I realized it is really not surprising at all. These volunteers have seen, first-hand, what our children have endured. They trust the Foundation and believe in our Mission. We are funded by walking angels who believe deeply in our mission. We have several standing donors who contribute frequently to the Foundation, including Michles and Booth, The Office of JJ Talbot, The Walton County Bar Association, among others. We are so appreciative of all our donors and their commitment to GAL. Can you explain how the Foundation works with the State of Florida GAL? It’s a bit different structure than other nonprofit organizations. The GAL Foundation Board is not the governing board of the GAL program. The GAL Program is a department of the State and oversight and funding is provided through the State and Governor’s office. We are two separate organizations who work closely together. Our goal as a support Foundation is to provide additional resources for the children and volunteers within the Program. We oversee and provide funding for programs such as the Children in Need Fund, Special Events, and Recruiting and Retention. In addition, the Board works with the program office and at a State level to advocate for the Guardian ad Litem program, child abuse awareness and prevention, and child welfare needs within our community. Board Director Sandi Huster serves as our community outreach leader working to build partnerships with community organizations and leaders to champion our mission. Our Board recruiting and retention chair, Karen Jolly, works closely with the program office on recruitment opportunities and to share

we are to people. There are many wonderful organizations who serve vulnerable children, but Guardian ad Litem is a bit unique and even our Latin name takes a bit of time to explain. I think there is a misconception that it takes specialized education or training to be a volunteer advocate. Or, that the time commitment is too much for someone who works or has a family. Some people simply say, “I could never do that. It would be too painful to see a child suffering.” It is sometimes painful but no other volunteer activity has brought me as much assurance that I am making a difference as being a Guardian advocate and working with the Foundation.

with the volunteers how the Foundation can provide support. What impact has GAL Foundation made in our area in the last year? Our Children in Need Fund is one of our most important, longstanding, funded programs. The Children in Need Fund (CINF) helps provide the “extras” for our kids, like – clothes, a basketball, or a musical instrument for band. We have even partnered with other organizations to provide beds or refurbished computers for the children. The CINF is accessible to GAL volunteers who identify needs for the children they represent. In 2020 the CINF provided over $15,000 in support of local children. We provided new clothes for a child who was starting her 3rd school within a year. In one case, a family of four needed school supplies that had been lost when they escaped an abusive parent. A teenager was provided horseback riding lessons that provided a meaningful connection and therapy. One request involved a pregnant teenager who ran away from foster placement and returned in need of special assistance. We aren’t providing extravagant gifts or experiences. I wish that were the case. But, we are able to create some sense of normalcy for some of our children through the CINF. The Foundation also funded over $10,000 in a holiday campaign to ensure children received presents for Christmas. What are some of the greatest challenges the organization faces? Both time and money, but perhaps a unique challenge we face is explaining who

What are some rewarding parts of your involvement? The three children I represent as a volunteer advocate are thriving and safe. I have been a part of making that happen. Understanding my role as a guardian advocate and how much of an influence I have on their lives was powerful and humbling. I never want to let them down. Of course, we cannot share the details, but seeing them happy and safe is the most rewarding volunteer experience I have ever had. Additionally, we received one generous donation from a volunteer advocate’s son recently. When I met with him, he said, “My mom talks about GAL ALL the time. I mean – all the time.” He was compelled to donate because of her passion. And, what a proud mom she was that day! How did you become involved with GAL Foundation? I don’t think it was by chance. When my husband, Kent, and I became GAL volunteers a little over a year ago, we attended our training session with Carol Thomas, a great lady and one of the GAL Program leaders. Carol shared a quick summary about the GAL Foundation during her training and Kent turned to me and said, “You need to be President of that Board. You could make a huge impact.” I likely raised my signature eyebrow and gave him a “turn around and listen to our instructor” look. After our training, Kent just kept bringing it up. I made a few calls and within three months an email came that the Foundation was in search of a new board member. I joined the board in June 2020 and in September, after some mentoring from Larry Clarke, I was named President. It was less than a year after Kent’s comment during our training session. January 2021 | 71

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JANUARY 1-31 Baytowne on Ice The Village of Baytowne Wharf 9300 Baytowne Wharf Blvd. | Miramar Beach Times vary, see full schedule at Dust off those skates and get in the winter spirit at The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Baytowne on Ice. For those visitors who miss the cold and ice, our seasonal ice rink is the perfect opportunity to share some of your favorite holiday traditions. Pricing and group rentals available at

JANUARY 14 JANUARY 9 Café Thirty-A Charity Ball

Crescendo! Kick Off Lunch Bijoux 9375 US Hwy 98 West Suite 22 | Miramar Beach 11:00am – 2:00pm

Café Thirty-A 3899 E Co Hwy 30A – Santa Rosa Beach 7:00pm - 11:00pm Café Thirty-A has rescheduled their annual Christmas Charity Ball benefiting Caring and Sharing of South Walton. Attendees will be greeted upon arrival with a glass of champagne and enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet, and a cash bar. There will be music by DJ 30A and a commemorative photo booth provided by Epic Photo Co. Guests are encouraged to dress in evening attire, black tie optional. For ticket information visit

Help us kick off Crescendo! 2021 safely and in style. Enjoy an incredible lunch prepared by award-winning Bijoux chef/co-owner Jack McGuckin, sip elegant wines, indulge in delectable desserts, shop all of the must-have accessories of the season from The Jewel, view the latest fashions modeled by Today’s Boutique, door prizes and raffle items. Crescendo! benefits Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education programs throughout Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Seating capacity controlled with social distancing and safety precautions in place for your safety. For more details and for ticket information visit



Sip N Science

Winter Guest Fest

Emerald Coast Science Center 31 Memorial Pkwy SW | Fort Walton Beach Shows at 6:00-7:00pm and 7:30-8:30pm

Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center 1250 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE | Fort Walton Beach 8:00am - 12:00pm

Sip & Science is heading back into space! This event takes our usual fun antics appropriate for adults age 21 and up and turns it into a journey through the galaxy (with wine). Join in for this fun and interactive planetarium show all about the heroes of Greek and Roman mythology including beer, wine, appetizers, and plenty of space (both socially distant and universe wise). Discover the planets and moons named after gods and the heroic constellations that light up our night sky. That’s right, you get to eat, drink, and relax while enjoying fun myths and trivia under the stars…you don’t want to Artemis this show. We Apollo-gize for that terrible pun.

Winter guests will be delighted to see some of their favorite businesses, along with a few new vendors, represented at the event. Some of the vendor categories represented are dining, resorts, shopping, hotels, entertainment, and more. Join us for a morning of reuniting with friends, enjoying delicious small bites from a variety of local eateries, taking away lots of fun giveaways, and a little entertainment! Admission is only $2.

For ticket information visit

For more information visit

Visit for more events! Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please confirm details with event organizers. 72


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You heard it here first! .





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Miramar Beach, FL 32550

Best Public Relations / Advertising Firm 2015-2018, 2020 Best Event Planning Firm 2015-2018, 2020


(850) 460-7777


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Emily Buckley

What is your hometown and how did you end up on the Emerald Coast? I am originally from Buffalo, New York, and ended up finding the Emerald Grande’s internship program. Although I did not come during their primary summer intern program they took me on within the Food & Beverage and Catering Department in 2015. At the conclusion of my internship I was offered to stay on with the team full time. Since I had such an amazing experience throughout the internship I could not have imagined starting my career anywhere else or with a better company than the Emerald Grande. What is your profession and what led you to choose it? I have always known I wanted to work in the wedding industry and help bride’s create the day of their dreams. Throughout my internship is where I developed my passion for weddings and I was excited to gain more experience within this industry. I gradually worked my way up and continued to learn about the execution, planning process, and the ever changing wedding trends. I am grateful to have a career that I enjoy and look forward to each day. What are some of your favorite things about Destin? My favorite thing about Destin is the small town feel that it has and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Destin has a special place in my heart as this is where I met my fiance and where we plan to start our lives together. Three words that best describe you. Creative. Passionate. Motivated. Favorite place for dining and/or to go for entertainment and/or go for outdoor activities? My favorite outdoor activity is to go to the Destin Dog Park with my 3 fur children. I also enjoy all the seasonal festivals and events that celebrate the arts, culture, and heritage of Destin.

photo by Zhalman Harris

What is one thing that you do not go a day without? Looking at the amazing views that Destin has to offer, of white sand and emerald green waters and feeling blessed to be able to call this home. Finish this statement, I AM DESTIN because‌ I believe every day is another day in paradise here. Destin has the best community, the most amazing people, and endless opportunities for all that reside here or those simply vacation here. I am forever grateful to have stumbled upon this little piece of paradise.

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