VIP Destin – July 2021

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JULY 2021

Armed Services ISSUE


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Available in Destin, exclusively at Emerald Lady Jewelry 34940 Emerald Coast Parkway Suite 161 • Destin, FL 32541 850-424-3823 •

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Voted Best Jewelry Store Six Years in a Row!

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It is important to have your chimney checked to be sure caps are tight and fit correctly, chase covers are in good condition, and in general the chimney is watertight. Maintaining a leak-free chimney is essential, as water leaks can cause damage to your home.

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Volume XVIII • Issue VII

events 13 MKAF Concerts in the Village featuring The Petty Hearts 19 2nd Annual Althea’s Legacy Sunset at the Penthouse 21 Business Before Hours 30 Impact100 NWF Member Number Reveal 34 Everglades 455cc Unveiled 36 Ladies who Launch 38 Harvest House 35th Anniversary Sunset Cruise 44 Last Fling of Spring 47 Flip Flops and Lemon Drops 52 Graduation for the Leadership Walton Class of 2020-2021 55 Aviation Center of Excellence Grand Opening 59 Summer Pop FUNdraiser Series 69 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic 72 J.Leon Anniversary

departments 28 32 41 50 62 65 78 80 82

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

features 25 Armed Forces 53 Armed Forces Supporters

VIP Destin Magazine Staff

on the cover

Publisher Greg Alexander

Art Director Priscilla Atkins

Todd Royall & Heather Hintz

Associate Publisher Verla Price

Graphic Design Brian Goins Patti Hall

Photography by Zhalman Harris at Flip Flops and Lemon Drops

Advertising Stephanie Alvarez Kristin Moffitt Kevin O’Rourke Verla Price Jeff Watson Content Creator Anna Stockton

Contributing Writers/ Photographers Zhalman Harris Alina Joukova-Seamon Verla Price Anna Stockton VIP Founder Jeff Watson

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letter from the Associate Publisher Hello, readers! Thank you for thoughtfully engaging in VIP Destin Magazine’s July issue as we pay tribute to our Armed Forces through our features while spotlighting many local happenings. It’s “Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime” -- the lyrics from this fun song stuck in my head the past few days. I guess I am ready for summer, and the Emerald Coast is perfect if you like the sun on your face and the hot sand trickling between your toes. I know I am ready for boats, jet skis, paddleboards, or maybe an outdoor picnic with tunes like “Under the Boardwalk” blasting. Speaking of music, the Mattie Kelly Concerts in the Village have been an absolute blast this year. Enjoy photos of area locals rocking to a Tom Petty tribute band celebrating the artist’s life with an impressive 40year career in rock and roll. You can join the fun this fall as the concert series continues; visit to see the scheduled shows and ticket information. Feel good about getting out with friends while supporting this local non-profit with a vision to enhance and inspire every life through arts and culture. Networking and celebratory events were plentiful in June, with Business Before Hours, Business After Hours, luncheons, and evening sunset cruises popping up in the mix. I boarded the Harvest House 35th Anniversary Cruise as they honored longtime volunteer JoeAnn VanGronigen with a cake for her 85th birthday. I was blessed with a blazing sunset on my first ride in the bay this year. Our lead photographer, Zhalman Harris hosted the 2nd Annual Aletha’s Legacy Sunset at the Penthouse. We at VIP Destin appreciate our readers and friends supporting Zhalman as he raises funds to build schools for the children in his homeland of Liberia. In this issue, the editorial features are military-inspired as we support those who serve and protect our country. Give Care Share opens our eyes to the horror soldiers deal with after being deployed.The organization Operation Zero provides resources, advocacy, and a shoulder for the returning soldiers to lean on. If you would like to donate or become involved, contact Kris Fleming at 850-485-9121. Explore the rich history of Fort Pickens in Adventure Out. A natural treasure close to Destin with ties to the civil war and Geronimo. Definitely a learning destination for the family with kids. Destin Style shows us some stylish fashion that has nothing to do with a uniform. In addition, we will learn how to make festive cherry bomb mimosas with pineapple juice, champagne, and some other unique ingredients in Swizzle. Wrapping up the July issue, I am Destin introduces William Blanken, an Investment Advisor residing in Destin after finishing his military career. If you know of a non-profit or charity holding an event you would like to see featured in VIP Destin Magazine, please call me. We will do our best to support you if we have space available in the next issue. Thank YOU for supporting VIP Destin Magazine; please be kind, courteous, and shop local.

Associate Publisher 850-502-7970 10


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Amanda Hurd

Team Leader-Realtor 850-375-3570

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Ashley Turner

Buyer’s Specialist 850-226-2102

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VIP Destin at Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation




photos & story by Zhalman Harris

t was another beautiful evening for concert goers to enjoy the night under the stars at MKAF on June 17. Guests brought their own bottle of wine, favorite craft beer, some delicious homemade goodies and snacks. The act for the evening was The Petty Hearts, a nationally touring Tom Petty tribute band celebrating the life and musical legacy of Tom Petty’s amazing 40-year career in rock and roll. The Petty Hearts perform faithful renditions of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ extensive catalog including dozens of his best-known Top 40 hits along with some deeper album cuts Petty rarely played live. They have performed across the country before thousands of music fans at festivals, performing arts theaters, amphitheaters and nightclubs. Mattie Kelly Art Foundation is Northwest Florida’s premier cultural arts and arts education organization. Building the Foundation of Arts and Culture in Our Community.

Larry Hill, Jessi Beauchamp & Vicki Hill

Kristen & Sean O’Shea

Elaine Tucker, Velia Lala & Shawn Springfield

Hulda Mahlum, Diane & Nadar Mahmoud, Dick Mahlum July 2021 | 13

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VIP Destin at Concerts in the Village featuring The Petty Hearts

Kayla Koger & Hilaree Durso

Tracy & Alan Wood

Eric & Erika Navarre

Mel Ponder & Shane Moody

Heather Hintz & Todd Royall

Jim & Shawn Springfield

Kylie Harris & Ashlyn Payne

Charles Alexander & Travis Watkins

Brechin & Suzanne Morrow 14

Chuck & Glenda Palmore

Vicki Stalnaker & Alis Harris


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Denise Song & Dion Moniz

Marta Nicodemus & Gwyn Wendt

Mindy Moniz & Nicole Browning

Jessica Knowlton, Michelle Willingham & Penny Wahab

Glenda, Dennis & Johnny Lichorwic

Velia Lala, Debra Henry & Deborah Elmore

Les Porterfield, Wayne & Jennifer Bernheisel

Mona Ponder & Cindy Cole

Denise & Ed Kendust, Susan Kiley & Wayne Paul July 2021 | 15

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VIP Destin at St. Thomas Building Penthouse

Jim & Shawn Springfield

Stephen Carter, Zhalman Harris & Joan Carter

Joey & Christine Martinez

Aletha’s Legacy

Sunset at the Penthouse photos & story by Alina Joukova-Seamon


letha’s Legacy fundraiser was hosted by Joan and Stephen Carter at their beautiful penthouse on June 16. The purpose of this event was to raise funds for the children’s orphanage in Kakata, Liberia. Aletha’s Legacy is a non-profit organization that was founded by Zhalman Harris, who was born in Liberia. The organization was founded in honor of his mother, Aletha, who died during the civil war in West Africa. Aletha’s Legacy has a new goal for 2021- to renovate the orphanage, including changing the roof, kitchen, bathrooms, classroom updates, installing a new computer room, and proper waste disposal. Guests were invited inside the lovely home of Joan and Stephen to enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, as well as a silent auction during a breathtaking sunset. Guests arrived early to spend time together with old friends and make some new friends. Zhalman was definitely the star of this event and thanks to him and his effort over 50 children, who call that orphanage their home, will have a better education and better living standards.

Ashley Bowen

Glenda & Chuck Palmore & Joan Carter

Maxine Orange Bern & Velia Lala

Karen Singleton, Rachel Spencer, Whitney Whidden, Christie Solomon, Dion Moniz, Velia Lala & Zhalman Harris July 2021 | 19

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VIP Destin at The Palms Bistro

Monica Wallis & Jennifer Gutai Comella

Business Before Hours

Christian Myers & Jim Wood

photos & story by Zhalman Harris

D Kelly Jasen & Marlee Tucker

Bobby Parker & Jake Reid

Jim Bagby & Ken Wampler

estin Chamber of Commerce held their Business Before Hours at The Palms Bistro on June 11. The breakfast featured Florida Representative Patt Maney sharing his thoughts on the recent legislative session, the three candidates for Destin City Council - Jim Bagby, John Green, and Bobby Wagner - shared their campaign platforms, and nonprofit partners Destin History & Fishing Museum and United Way Emerald Coast shared the great works they are doing to preserve our area’s history and take care of its residents. John Tringas of FNBT Bank was named and honored as Business Person of the Month and Eglin Federal Credit Union with the Gabby Bruce ‘You Make a Difference’ Award. A2Z Specialty Advertising, Destin History & Fishing Museum, Eglin Federal Credit Union, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Fresh Start for Children and Families, and Paradise Promotions of The Emerald Coast, LLC donated door prizes for the event.

Deborah Bruce & Tony Mallett

Elizabeth Spies & Debbie Eggers

Jenni Brunson, Denis Kendust, Emily Friedlander & Leslie Moland July 2021 | 21

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VIP Destin at Business Before Hours

Jason Belcher & John Tringas

Stephen Smith, Jerry Williams & Wes Fell

Cortney Dollson, Mel Ponder & Neko Stubblefield

Patt Maney, Amelia Keegan & Bill Head 22

Myla Martinez & Bernita Everett

Jason Hall & Brian Keister

Bobby Wagner, Dion Moniz & Kevin O’Rourke

Carol Rogers & Rio Clavier

Bryana Bahmer & Ivana Coteat

Jasper Proctor, Rachel & John Green


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Thank you for Voting Blanken Management Best Financial Advisor

Blanken Management is committed to serve our Military and Veteran Families by providing them with Financial Planning and Investing guidance. Blanken Management is a Veteran owned Wealth Management Firm that specializes in financial circumstances pertaining to Military and Veterans. Here at Blanken Management we pride ourselves in serving our Military and veterans getting squared away financially while on active duty through their retirement and beyond. At Blanken Management your financial success is our obligation and privilege. Let’s get started on your financial success today. William Edward Blanken, Jr. 850-660-1164 - Office 570-236-0076 Cell


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Armed Services Saluting our Troops


ed, white, and blue….and green; emerald green that is. The shores of the beautiful Emerald Coast are home to thousands of military families. This area is unique because all five military branches are at work here; Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. As you are relaxing on the beach with your friends and family, it is not uncommon to see jets of the United States Air Force flying overhead. Eglin Air Force Base has played a part in airpower history for over 65 years. Valparaiso, Florida was chosen by the Army Air Corps Tactical School in 1931 as the perfect location for a bombing and gunnery range. The open land and dense forests adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico continue to make Eglin Air Force Base an ideal spot for military training exercises. Eglin is also home to many Army soldiers, including the elite 7th Special Forces Group and 6th Ranger Training Battalion. Neighboring Eglin Air Force Base is Hurlburt Field, where more members of the United States Air Force work and train, including the 1st Special Operations Group. There is

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also Duke Field, which hosts the 919th Special Operations Wing, employing around 1,300 reservists. Located on Choctawhatchee Bay at the east end of Okaloosa Island is the U.S. Coast Guard Station Destin. Commissioned in 1977, their primary missions include search and rescue and a wide range of law enforcement activities. If you hear any loud booms while walking through your neighborhood, it could be the Navy or the Marines training at the Explosive Ordnance Disposal School. Each military member and their family in our area play a critical role not only professionally, but also within our community. With so many selfless and courageous military members working and living throughout the Destin and Fort Walton areas, it is no surprise that the members of the community are full of military pride. Countless local restaurants and businesses show their appreciation by offering discounts to military members and their families and by supporting military causes. VIP Destin is proud to salute those who salute our military.

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Reporting for Beauty W

story by Anna Stockton

hen you think of military uniforms you probably think function, not fashion. But military inspired clothing, now that’s a whole other set of stripes. With some notable celebrities marching around in their military inspired gear, the popularity of this style exploded and has become the trend on runways everywhere. Button details are just one way these structured styles stand out, with sailor style shorts that provide a fashionable, vintage look. Shirt dresses with clean lines and structured shape make a great versatile piece that can go straight from the office to date night. Bomber jackets have long been a staple in the closets of both men and women. Whether you go with the wellworn rich brown colors of the traditional bomber jacket or a more updated style in vibrant colors and patterns, you’ll always be “the bomb” in these classics. Vintage-look military style jackets give your outfit a polished look with flattering shapes and stylish buttons. Combat style boots, like Dr. Martens are back in force amongst men and women. These bold boots make quite a statement and are available in the traditional military colors or more funky options. Either way, these boots give that military look you want, without having to endure that ten-mile ruck. And we can’t talk about military inspired fashions without mentioning everyone’s favorite homage to the military - camouflage. Camo skirts, tank tops, pants and even camo shoes, in every imaginable color combination are everywhere these days and the trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. You’ll do anything but blend in when you join in this fashionable force. Function and fashion, what a combination - all thanks to these military inspired trends. So, don’t be afraid to make the jump and enlist these commando couture pieces in your wardrobe.

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VIP Destin at Legendary Yacht Club

Impact100 NWF MEMBER NUMBER REVEAL photos by Debbie Vaughan


story by Impact100


mpact100 Northwest Florida held their member number reveal event at Legendary Yacht Club in Destin on Tuesday, May 25. The group was excited to reveal that they recruited 418 members in 2021 which means that they will be awarding $418,000 in four $104,500 grants to Okaloosa and Walton County nonprofits this year. Board members at the fun ‘Welcome Aboard’ nautical themed event wore captain’s hats and the event crew were in sailor hats. President joyce gillie gossom thanked the members for weathering the rough seas of 2020 and 2021 and coming through for the tremendous needs of the region. For information on how to apply for a grant or become a member please email

Valerie Bogar, Cathy Campbell & Valerie Burrelle

Beth Lamberson, Deb VanGronigen & Ruthann Heberle 30

Barbara Britt & Melanie Adams

Carly Barnes, Kathy Edge, Nancy Francis & joyce gille gossom


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“For Mom and Apple Pie” story by Anna Stockton


hether you’re drinking natty lights and dodging bottle rockets on the 4th of July or sipping white wine and dodging your crazy relative’s political rants on Thanksgiving, there’s sure to be apple pie on the dessert table. This iconic pie is synonymous with all things American and is a symbol of wholesome patriotism. So, how did apple pie end up with such a distinction. Well, hold on to your nutmeg, you might be surprised at its history. Despite what you might think “As American as apple pie” means, you might be surprised to find out that apple pie’s roots….well, they’re not even American. By all accounts, this tasty treat was created in England in the 14th century with influences from places like France and the Netherlands. These pies were originally crustless due to sugar being wildly expensive and as sugar became more available, the pies took shape with crusts and lattice work that we see today. Not to break your hearts further but yeah, the spices used in the pies and the apples we know and love aren’t native to the states. Crabapples, a sour and inedible fruit, are the only type of native apple and while they’re great for the colonial party scene as they make some pretty powerful hard cider, they’re definitely not apple pie-worthy. It wasn’t until the mid 1600’s that we got the good stuff, the good apples that is. While it took the import of European honey bees a few decades later to really get the apple trees to take off, this


development, along with the import of spices, allowed America to be well on its way to their love affair with apple pie. So if apple pie isn’t American, what makes it so….American? Some claim much like the American population, the combination of native and imported ingredients combined to make the pie is inherently American. Others say it’s not as complicated as that, the settlers just took to the pie and labeled it “uniquely American,” two recipes were even listed for apple pie in the first ever American cookbook published in 1796. As the decades wore on, apple pie became more embedded in the culture and became a symbol of all things American. And while we don’t know exactly how the term “as American as apple pie” originated, it was used in a 1928 New York Times piece describing First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s homemaking skills. By World War II, apple pie was associated with the warmth of home and soldiers would proudly exclaim they’re fighting for “Mom and apple pie!” (I’m not crying, you’re crying). So, whether you go with the theory that apple pie represents the melting pot that is America or that some settlers, while drinking their hard cider just decided they really dig this new pie, apple pie is truly as American as baseball, beer, and reckless fireworks on the 4th of July.


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Classic Apple Pie INGREDIENTS: 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie ½ cup unsalted butter 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour ¼ cup water ½ cup white sugar ½ cup packed brown sugar 8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced DIRECTIONS: Step 1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer. Step 2 Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off. Step 3 Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

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VIP Destin at Legendary Marine


verglades® unveiled information of the boat before their newest model, the Christening. the 455cc on the docks The first and only 455cc built of Legendary Marine and in operation to date, shows on May 26. It was the natural class and craftsmanship. The choice for Legendary Marine to center console is nothing short photos & story by Zhalman Harris be the first to unveil the beautiful craft, as they are of spectacular and provides comfort and control for the largest distributor of the Everglades® brand. every passenger. The 455 is the longest and widest Todd Royall, the general manager of Legendary Marine in Destin vessel that Everglades® has created, the boat stands boldly amongst its competitors and creates the perfect atmosphere for an incredible fishing said, “We are thrilled to host this unveiling alongside the staff of experience. Made to captivate any boater’s eye, the 455 spans 47.2 feet, Everglades. We wanted to give our customers a chance to see why this including the engine. The maximum horsepower capacity is 1,800. boat is unlike any other we have had before”. The President, designers Within the interior, the wood grained stairs lead to a full-size cabin that and engineers of Everglades®, were on hand to give guests and three 455 owners who have not taken delivery of their new toy, firsthand contains a convertible seating and dining area into a king-sized sleeper.


455cc Unveiled

Alphonse Scymanski & Bob Peavler

Shane Moody & Todd Royall

Peyton Pallar & Sarah Wright

Margot Brown & Eileen Bress

Matt Vernich & John Ward

Ellen Ward & Megan Harrison


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Scott Cunningham & Dennis Brown

1/2 or (2) 1/4 Ad Space

Craig Kelly, Sarah & Richard Atlib

Bob Landis, Dennis Grater, Harry Pierce & Mark Burkhalter

John Ward - Hull #1 is officially christened! July 2021 | 35

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VIP Destin at Destin Chamber of Commerce

Ladies Who Launch photos & story by Zhalman Harris


adies Who Launch continued their Powerhouse Women Series at the Destin Chamber Offices on June 16, this series highlights an impactful woman in our community. The Powerhouse Woman was none other than Martha Miller, the Regional Retail Sales Manager for Synovus Financial Corp and an Executive Vice President. She is responsible for the overall banking operations of 30 Synovus bank branches from South Georgia and throughout North Florida. Martha has worked in the financial industry for more than 30 years. She served in various financial leadership roles including Okaloosa and Walton County Market President, Branch Management, Consumer and Commercial Lending, Human Resources, Training, Marketing, Sales and Business Continuity. Martha was named Honorary Commander of the 33rd Squadron, an F-15 unit at Eglin and has served as a planning commissioner for the City of Niceville. She has chaired various committees and events for well-known non-profits for multiple years, such as American Cancer Society and American Heart Association. Currently Martha is serving as a Board Member for Opportunity Place, Inc., and volunteers her time to serve as Master of Ceremonies for various non-profit events. Ladies Who Launch, a committee of the Destin Chamber, offers the Chamber’s female membership a platform for strategic networking and relationship building, while training, motivating and inspiring those members. There is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited so registration is required. Please bring your lunch.


Jennifer Cooper & Barbara Pfeiffer-Marcum

Susan Young & Tanya Rauch

Cassy De Julio & Elizabeth Spies

Martha Miller & Jenny Brunson

Jenny Larson & Emily Friedlander

Bobbie Celano & Ashley Vannoy

Nicole Johnson & Jill Kendall

Gina Stephens & Stephanie Duffield


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RAW BAR | HAPPY HOUR, 3-6 p.m. | Check our Facebook page for entertainment schedule Home of the 102 foot bar including 32 beers on draft. Some of our specialties include little neck clams, freshly shucked raw oysters, New England style clam chowder and jumbo shrimp cocktail! Austons on 98, of Nashville roots, also features its very own “Real Deal Nashville Hot Sauce”! 125 Poinciana Boulevard, Miramar Beach, FL 32550 | 850-842-3200 | | Hours: Sun-Thur 11 am to 9 pm; Fri-Sat 11 am to 10 pm


(850) 424-6979

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VIP Destin aboard the Southern Star


Sunset Cruise photos & story by Verla Price


n Tuesday, June 8, a group of Harvest House volunteers boarded the Southern Star for a Sunset Cruise. The HarborWalk Village boarding area fi lled with ladies in full-length gowns and men in Florida Black Tie attire as they prepared to set sail out into the harbor. The evening honored longtime volunteer JoeAnn Van Gronigen with a cake for her 85th birthday party and celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Christian nonprofit. Harvest House’s mission to addiction recovery provides a faith-based, safe family atmosphere and a nurturing environment of guidance and support. Harvest House retail store offers a wide variety of unique items, everything from clothing for the entire family to just about everything you need for your home—offering quality items at bargain prices. Proceeds from donated items sold in the Harvest House thrift store directly support the mission. The thrift store is located at 300 Mountain Drive, Destin, FL, with shopping hours Monday-Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. For more information, call 850-622-3774.


Claire & Jerry Ogle

Lori Joyner & JoeAnn Van Gronigen

Jeannie Ogle & Susie Blow

Natasha Smith & Vaughn Mueller

Mary Gisi, Hossein & Hedy Vahabzadeh

Audrey Eddington & London McMinn


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The Area’s Premier Rehabilitation Facility Thank you for making us a winner


Best Senior Care Facility 850-897-5592

5-Star CMS Rated Facility

(850) 460-2933

1004 Hwy 98E • Destin, FL 32541

Thank You 1500 N White Point Road, Niceville, FL 32578 For Your Service July 2021 | 39

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story by Anna Stockton


ot far from downtown Pensacola lies a storied structure, with a history of legendary visitors, even more legendary fighting and ……………. No, I’m not referring to the Flora-Bama, I’m talking about Fort Pickens. A national treasure, pivotal in America’s history…. right in our own back yards.

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Long before we knew Pensacola Bay to be a place of fun and sun, European powers saw the bay as an important body of water. The depths and length of the waterway could provide protection and perfect anchorage for their ships. In 1819, as part of the Transcontinental Treaty, Pensacola Bay officially became part of the US. In 1825, President Monroe signed a law that established a new navy yard and depot on the bay. Of course, these new American assets needed to be defended in case an enemy was brave enough to enter the Pensacola Bay and thus, Fort Pickens was born. Using money from the Fortifications Bill of 1828, over $100,000 was set aside for the construction of the fort. The 1000-acre area on the west end of Santa Rosa Island designated for the fort was bought for $4000 and plans for the structure quickly came into place using the Army Corp of

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Engineers. While construction lasted from 1829 to 1834, the pentagon shaped structure was completed with massive walls 40 feet high and 12 feet thick. And while I’m not sure what the brick counter did to deserve that punishment but thanks to him, we know there are over 21.5 million bricks used to build the fort. Shortly before completion the war department named the fort after Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, an American hero during the Revolutionary War. While the fort was a formidable force, it really only saw actual action during the Civil War. Fort Pickens was only one of four seacoast forts in the south that remained under Union control. When the confederates, who were holding the mainland, took on the Union soldiers at Fort Pickens they were met with a fierce battle that lasted nearly two months. The Confederate soldiers were forced to retreat and head

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up to Tennessee and Mississippi to help their struggling comrades. With this development, the Union army quickly raised the American flag over their sister forts in Pensacola Bay and despite death threats by both the mayor and the people of Pensacola, a Union Lieutenant boldly raised the American flag over the city of Pensacola. Although, Fort Pickens is known as a military powerhouse, it also functioned as a prison. The most famous resident was Apache medicine man Geronimo. This famous Native American had spent years fighting the containment and restrictions put upon his tribe until he and his band of warriors were captured in New Mexico in 1886. Put on a train and bound for a different fort in St. Augustine, a few Pensacola businessmen petitioned the government to

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allow Geronimo and his men to be held at Fort Pickens instead. This request was granted and on October 25, 1886, the prisoners arrived at Fort Pickens. Now there are differing opinions on the motivation of these interested Pensacola businesspeople. While they claimed Fort Pickens could provide much more effective confinement than the overcrowded St. Augustine fort, others thought the motivation might be a little less pure, as having a prisoner as famous as Geronimo would surely bring in the tourist bucks. These days Fort Pickens has a far more peaceful presence. This National Park hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, all there to see the historic sites and learn about the fort’s storied past. Hiking, biking and camping are also available to enjoy the area’s diverse wildlife and eco-system.

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VIP Destin at Emerald Coast Title Services

Last Fling of Spring photos & story by Alina Joukova-Seamon


merald Coast Title Services hosted the Last Fling of Spring on June 7 at their location on Emerald Coast Parkway. The event was originally scheduled for May 11 but was rescheduled due to weather. The Last Fling of Spring is an event to celebrate in coastal style and gear up for the summer season. The parking lot party featured the 30A Oyster Guy, Rick McCurly, with his famous oysters and Lyndon Poff with delicious pulled pork. Maxwell Imm brought his KombiKeg, a mobile bar in an iconic vintage VW minibus, complete with six beer taps, a chilled trunk for wine, festive lights, and even a television. A bonfire and chairs were provided by Vacayzen while live music set the tone for the fun evening. Emerald Coast Title Services is a local, attorney run title company with offices in both Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

JJ, J & Jackie Cronin

Brett & Nathaniel McKinney

Peter Mohylsky, Dion Moniz, Gerard Perillo & Clayton Hicks 44

Liz Nicolucci & Russel Wamble

Rick McCurly


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Clayton Jones & Joe Warren

Ashley Bowen, Carrie Campbell & Rich Freda 850.585.1598

Contact Mary Fletcher

to learn about buying and selling property along the Emerald Coast

Kevin O’Rourke, Tracy & Gerard Perillo

Mary has a special place in her heart for our military because her father graduated from West Point and was a career officer in the US Air Force, and her grandfather was a General in the US Army.

Tara Snook, Bob & Gwyn Wendt July 2021 | 45

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VIP Destin at Legendary Marine

Profitt & Elena Bochkareva

Renee Launiere & Pat Clay

Flip Flops and Lemon Drops photos & story by Zhalman Harris


infonia Gulf Coast celebrated the end of its 15th anniversary season with an appreciation party for sponsors, Treble Makers, and volunteers at Legendary Marine on June 15. The theme of the night, “Flip Flops and Lemon Drops,” was carried out fully as guests were welcomed with a glass of bubbly and anyone wearing flip flops received a special lemon drop style cocktail. Hors d’oeuvres were provided by chef Philip Bauer of PB&J Goes Gourmet and featured cucumber cups with smoked chicken salad, watermelon caprese skewers, pulled pork sandwiches, and a passion fruit panna cotta. Guests were treated to a special performance by Sinfonia’s youth orchestra director, Aaron King Vaughn, as he hula hooped and played his violin at the same time. Additional entertainment featured steel drums performance by Cam Ray from Top hat, and fiery hula dancer Christine Strictland.

Todd Royall & Heather Hintz

Mike & Anne Hinze

Jill Cadenhead & Tim Krueger

Kate Kelley, Demetrius Fuller, Beth Clavier, Anne Hinze, Deborah Elmore, Aaron Vaughn & Jeff Dannelly July 2021 | 47

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VIP Destin at Flip Flops and Lemon Drops

Diane & Walter Newman

Jack & Candis Wilson

Pixie & Charlie Hoffner & Debra Emery

Dick Rakers & Grace Magner

Nicole Browning, Dion & Mindy Moniz, Jeff Dannelly

Steve Barber & Melanie Moore

Kay Phalen, Lisa Bulriss, Lynn Wesson & Myra Williams 48

John & Sarah Gatwood

Sherry Harlow & Kathey Mitchell

Beth Clavier, Kate Kelley & Rio Clavier


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JULY 8, 2021 Christmas In July Bizarre American House Bluewater Bay Senior Independent Living 4595 Hwy 20 East | Niceville 10:00am - 3:00pm Join for the 4th annual Christmas In July Bizarre with indoor shopping in the air conditioning! There will be several different vendors selling all kinds of things. This fun and free event is a hidden gem in our area.

Form more info call Michelle or Donna at 850.897.7386.

JULY 13 JULY 8 Step One Automotive Volkswagen ID.4 & Taos Launch Volkswagen of Fort Walton Beach 130 Hollywood Blvd. SW | Fort Walton Beach 5:30 - 9:00pm Join the Step One team in launching this exciting new vehicle to their line-up, the new 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 and 2022 Volkswagen Taos! There will be food, refreshments, and you can register to win a $500 gift card, with lots of excitement in store.

RSVP required.


8th Annual Great American Cookout Destin Chamber, 4484 Legendary Dr. Ste. A, Destin 11:30am - 1:00pm Join this great event for networking and a cookout at the Destin Chamber, sponsored by Community Bank and Emerald Coast Title Services. The non-profit spotlight is Fisher House of the Emerald Coast. The Destin City Council candidates for the July 20 special election will be attending to answer questions, and Trees on the Coast will present its Quarterly Landscaping Award. Cost is $10 for members, $20 for non-members. Registrations are due July 9. Prepayment is required.

Register at

Summer Pop FUNdraiser Series Emerald Coast Theatre Company 560 Grand Boulevard, Suite 200 | Miramar Beach 7:00pm Pop goes the music … and more! Add some sizzle into summer with this new live entertainment series. Go Back to Broadway with Broadway veterans’ Jordan and Michelle’s “Back to Broadway” show – a fun-fi lled, high-energy tribute to the Broadway music of today and yesterday.

Get more information and future events at

JULY 21-25 Jesus Christ Superstar Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College 100 College Boulevard East Niceville July 21-24 at 7:00pm July 25 at 2:00pm A timeless work, the rock opera is loosely based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Superstar follows the last week of Jesus Christ’s life - the story told entirely through song.

For more details visit

Visit for more events!

Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please confirm details with event organizers. 50 |

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VIP Destin at Sandcastles Restaurant

Graduation for the Leadership Walton Class of 2020-2021 photos & story by Alina Joukova-Seamon


n Tuesday, June 15, Walton Chamber of Commerce celebrated its newest class of Leadership Walton graduates. These graduates invested their time and energy to become better leaders and to immerse themselves in efforts to improve the local community. They worked hard all year and the purpose of this day was to celebrate the graduates’ commitment to their goals and perseverance. Dinner was served at Sandcastles restaurant inside Hilton Sandestin. Upon arrival guests registered and were greeted by Hanna Green and Gabrielle Kilgore. Many attendees arrived early enough to mingle and spend some time together before dinner was served. Attendees arrived wearing their finest cocktail attire as they laughed and talked, enjoying their time with friends and colleagues. Right before the dinner, Pastor David Butler offered a prayer. Mel Ponder, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, was the guest speaker. The significance of the mentorship was also discussed at this dinner. Leadership Walton Class President, Khaliqa Whitley spoke about how meaningful this experience was to her. Events like this one help the local community foster bonds between the people, build relationships and rapport.

Mel Ponder

Pastor David Butler


Stephanie Jordan & Megan Brown

Hanna Green & Gabrielle Kilgore

Chrissy Price, Jennifer & Matt Cooper

Britnee Orr & Ginny Richerson

Micah, Isaiah & Khaliqa Wheatley

Adam Falk & Phillip Currid


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Salute to Military Friendly Businesses

Check out these businesses who offer military discounts or special perks to Service men and women. Contact them to see what they offer.

850.266.8982 • 155 Crystal Beach Dr, Ste 100 Destin, Fl 32541

1313 Creighton Road Pensacola, Fl 32504 | 850-258-3225 | 850.862.0111 | 850-837-5197 4781 Clubhouse Drive • Destin | 850-279-4145 4495 Furling Ln, Suite 10, Destin, FL 32541

53 MilitaryDiscount_layout.indd 1| 5850-460-8884 9375 Emerald Coast Parkway • Miramar Beach

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VIP Destin at HSU Innovation Institute


Grand Opening photos & story by Zahlman Harris


Bernita Everett, Neko Stubblefield & Courtney Dollson

orthwest Florida State College’s Aviation Center of Excellence (ACE) officially opened June 23, 2021, at the Hsu Innovation Institute North in Crestview. More than 200 members of the local community attended the celebration. With a shared vision for excellence, Northwest Florida State College along with the Hsu Educational Foundation, the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, Okaloosa County Airports, Florida Department of Transportation, Triumph Gulf Coast and many more came together to create a 27,000 square foot state-of-the-art training facility complete with hangar and lab space outfitted with Snap-On work benches that will offer high-tech career opportunities for the entire Northwest Florida Region. Dr. Stephenson expressed his excitement of this public private partnership which would bring over 500 jobs to the area, he said “aviation is a fast moving and growing industry, and there is a growing need to have skilled personnel to maintain and fly aircrafts”. “We have been honored here in Northwest Florida to bring together so many aligned partners and leaders who share a common vision for the future growth of aviation at Bob Sikes Airport,” says Dr. Paul Hsu, a local longtime aerospace tech entrepreneur and educational advocate. The HSU Innovation Institute North campus is situated at Crestview Technology Air Park connecting to the end of the 8000-foot runway of Bob Sikes Airport. The campus will feature the Northwest Florida State College’s Aviation Center of Excellence (ACE) and the HSU Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence. ACE will offer the FAA certified Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A & P) program, as well as manned aviation and other degree seeking aviation career opportunities. Public private partners which include Florida DoT, Triumph Gulf Coast, Okaloosa County BOCC, Okaloosa Airports, Northwest Florida State College, private industry, individual donors, FieldWerx military educational partners and the support of a number of other not for profit organizations, joined The HSU Educational Foundation’s vision to make it a success.

Amanda Reeves & Melissa Read

Patt Maney & Paul Hsu

Jill Russ & Angelica Espesrth July 2021 | 55

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VIP Destin at Aviation Center of Excellence Grand Opening

Jennifer Conoley & Matt Terry

Zakary Stephens & John McKeon

Frances Jones, Amelia Keaton & Earl Atkinson

Heather Dietzold, Deidra Price & Cole Allen

Caroline McCoy & Mallory Whalen

Nicole & Jason Floyd with Heather Ruiz 56

Carolyn Ketchel & Devin Stephenson

Thomas & Mikiko Tucker

Julie Schrodt & Carla Buice Reinile

Shannon Kirby & Tammy McKenzie


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VIP Destin at Emerald Coast Theatre Company

P photos & story by Zhalman Harris

op goes the music ... and more! Emerald Coast Theatre Company is searing some sizzle into summer 2021 with a hot new live entertainment series. On June 18, the Summer Pop series of four different fun-fi lled fundraising entertainment events kicked off at ECTC’s Theatre on Grand Boulevard. The opening day featured Jenn Weeks, Jason Hedden and a hilarious headline act by “blue-collar dad” Nathan Wallace— a Top 100 World Series of Comedy. Guests also enjoyed side splitting comedy, adult beverages, and hors d’oeuvres. The Summer Pop series ranges from alternative pop/rock acts, comedy, Broadway, Rat Pack-era tunes, and even a little opera. The series will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm throughout June and July.

David & Edina Mann

Deb Becker & Holly McHarg

Steven Fann & Tara Padgett

Jenn Weeks, Ted Hedden & Nathan Wallace

Anna & Nathanael Fisher

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VIP Destin at Summer Pop FUNdraiser Series

Michelle Lovaas, Curtis Boston & Val Burelle

Richard & Sue Olivarez, Jayden Olivarez

Don & Debra Williams, Debbie & Fred Broderson

Sheldon Jernigon & Erica Averion

Kristina & John Martin

Shelia Armstrong & Deb Vann

Claiborne & Olivia Frazier

Robin & John Wallace, Jeff & Kimberly Phillips, Jan & Jim Wallace 60


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We offer you a clean, quiet and productive environment.

SIGN UP FOR A HOT DESK FOR ONLY $25/DAY! You will get complimentary use of coffee , secure wifi and print/scan facilities . YOUR OWN SPACE: At Beachworx, enjoy your own dedicated desk complete with privacy glass barrier, protective shield storage locker, access to Beachworx boardrooms, unlimited print/copy/scan, gourmet coffee, healthy snacks & much more! HOT DESKS: Our most affordable option in a traditional coworking setup — available to locals and out-of-town visitors. Surround yourself with success and work in the shared coworking space with access to all of the amenities. EVERYTHING YOU NEED: An executive office suite in the heart of Destin. Come and go as you please and always know you have the best office in town.



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@thebeachworx 34990 Emerald Coast Pkwy. | Suite 300 Destin, FL | (850) 974-3435 July 2021 | 61

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‘Cherry’ Bombs Bursting in Air story by Anna Stockton


hile mimosas may not be at the top of your list when you think of patriotic cocktails, you might be surprised that the rise in popularity of mimosas was due to a legendary director claiming them as his own in the states. Now, mimosas weren’t born in America, they are an off- shoot of a Buck’s Fizz cocktail from Buck’s Bar in London. A bartender at the Ritz in Paris changed the recipe a bit and made the current mimosas we all love. But film director Alfred Hitchcock’s love of mimosas made them wildly popular in America. While his claims of “inventing” the drink have gone mostly debunked, Hitchcock made them a staple in the states. These days mimosas are as American as drinking away the “Sunday scaries” with your friends at a bottomless brunch.

Cherry Bomb Mimosas Ingredients:

1 c. pineapple juice ¼ c. maraschino cherry juice (from the jar of cherries) 1 bottle champagne Orange slices, for garnish


In champagne flutes, combine pineapple juice and maraschino cherry juice. Top off with champagne and garnish with an orange slice.

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Progress Looks Like Investing For

Your Legacy

Zach Seabolt

Financial Advisor 3063 US Highway 98 Santa Rosa Beach 850.724.1405

Securities offered through SA Stone Wealth Management Inc. | Advisory Services Offered through SA Stone Investment Advisors Inc. | Member FINRA/SIPC | Not FDIC Insured Not FDIC Insured | May Lose Value | No Bank Guarantee

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LOCALE O Bow Ties & Bling Raises $500K It was a record setting evening raising $500K for the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) at its 22nd annual signature Gala at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. The “Bow Ties & Bling” sold-out event brought the community out in their finest attire to enjoy dinner, entertainment by David Seering, and Mr. Big and the Rhythm Sisters, along with live and silent auctions, sponsorships, and other fundraisers.

In what became the first matching funds occasion for ECCAC, the Jim Pierce Family, for whom the Pierce Family CAC is named after in Walton County, stepped forward to offer to match the guest Paddle Raise. As it turns out, the Paddle Raise amounted to $100K, then Jim and Tammy Pierce matched that for a total of $200K raised for that alone. An additional $300K was raised via the nonprofit’s live and silent auctions and a wine pull. A highlight of the evening was ECCAC’s impactful keynote speaker, Aimee Shaffer, a domestic abuse survivor, who unfortunately experienced abuse, both in her childhood and as a young adult. She now is extensively involved in the community. Shaffer is the pet lover behind Aimee’s Animal Magnetism, a pet sitting service in the Niceville/Ft. Walton Beach area. ECCAC CEO Julie Porterfield commented, “The Gala is an energetic, yet important ECCAC fundraiser to benefit children by providing services at no cost to help identify, treat and support child victims in abusive situations. We are forever grateful to our supporters for such a successful Gala this year.” With Centers in Okaloosa and Walton

County, in ECCAC’s 21-year history, right at 15,000 children have received more than 150,000 services at no cost to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews and medicals. Todd Jackson Promoted to serve as COO for entire Market HCA Healthcare North Florida Division recently announced that Todd Jackson, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, has been promoted to Market COO to oversee comprehensive operations for both Fort Walton Beach Medical Center (FWBMC) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and Twin Cities Hospital (TCH), in Niceville, Florida. A 15-year veteran of HCA Healthcare, Jackson has served as FWBMC COO since November 2016.

“I am pleased to announce this exciting new position at our growing hospital,” said Dave Whalen, CEO, Twin Cities Hospital. “Todd’s background and experience will serve us well as we undertake several new projects to better serve our community.” Jackson has more than a decade of management experience in healthcare and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Prior to joining FWBMC, Jackson was the COO at East Houston Regional Medical Center, in Houston, TX, and associate COO at TriStar Skyline Medical Center- Tennessee’s first comprehensive stroke center and a national leader in neuroscience. Since Jackson arrived to the Northwest Florida area in 2016, he has immersed himself into the community. He previously served on the Board of Northwest Florida Ballet and currently serves on the Board of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. “This is a great opportunity for Todd and I am very excited for him,” shared Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s CEO, Mitch Mongell. “Todd has been a tremendous leader since he arrived,

overseeing $160 million in capital projects including the expansion of our main campus and a new free-standing ER in Destin as well as Navarre. This new position will benefit both hospitals and I am confident in Todd’s ability to lead the execution of our market’s robust operations agenda.” Corcoran Reverie Raises More Than $12k For the Sonder Project at One-Year Anniversary Celebration Celebrating incredible success in its first year as an affi liate of The Corcoran Group, Corcoran Reverie – a boutique brokerage specializing in the high-end home market with offices in Seagrove Beach and Destin – hosted Reverie 365: A Celebration of Success on May 20 at the firm’s Seagrove Beach office. They welcomed more than 300 guests who enjoyed live music by Yacht Rock Schooner Trio, a live painting by local artist Maxine Orange, and a silent auction that raised $6,130 for The Sonder Project – which Corcoran Reverie matched – bringing the total donation to $12,260.

Corcoran Reverie affi liated with The Corcoran Group just over a year ago and has experienced unprecedented sales volume. Corcoran Reverie also grew its number of agents in its first year as an affi liate of The Corcoran Group from 68 to 102 and serving more than 750 clients. “Reflecting over the past year, we have seen incredible success and growth as Northwest Florida’s Corcoran affi liate, with two offices now expanding our reach across the Emerald Coast,” said broker and owner Hilary Farnum-Fasth. “We set our mission to open a brokerage with a culture of support and growth among our agents and the result has far exceeded expectations.” July 2021 | 65

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LOCALE O Recently, Corcoran Reverie extended its reach with Destin’s respected RealJoy Properties joining the Corcoran Reverie family. With this expansion, Corcoran Reverie added its second office in Destin and the number of agents grew to more than 130, which also expanded the firm’s footprint further into Okaloosa County. Following the success Corcoran Reverie achieved this past year, it was the firm’s goal to give back to the community at the oneyear anniversary celebration by supporting The Sonder Project – a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower impoverished communities through highimpact, sustainable development.

One Hopeful Place (OHP) is the primary shelter in Okaloosa County serving unaccompanied individuals and veterans experiencing homelessness. OHP operates for men and women who have the desire to make changes in their current life circumstances. During inclement winter weather, OHP provides the only temporary shelter for all those experiencing homelessness. CVHN Mobile Dental Clinic Helps over 1000 Children

One Hopeful Place adds Women’s Residence Community Solutions of the Emerald Coast Board of Directors, Bridgeway Center, and The Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, are pleased to announce the opening of the women’s residence at One Hopeful Place.

One Hopeful Place opened in May 2016 as a Men’s 20 bed shelter. Since then, over 200 men who needed just a little assistance in turning their lives around, have been given the opportunity to utilize the amenities. In late 2020, One Hopeful Place completed Phase II, which increased the occupancy to 50 men. For the last four years, One Hopeful Place has served as the area’s only cold night shelter, serviced by local churches and team of wonderful volunteers. “Community Solutions and Bridgeway Center have been planning for over 10 years to be able to create a shelter for single women. We are so pleased that our first female resident arrived on March 22, 2021,” says Lisa Jo Spencer, Chair of Community Solutions. She continued, “The eleven bed women’s shelter will now serve that very underserviced demographic of single women down on their luck.” 66

Children’s Volunteer Health Network Mobile Dental Clinic, named Pearl, has traveled all across Okaloosa and Walton counties to serve the children in the community. During the 2020-2021 school year the team has done lots of traveling have made an incredible impact. Pearl has allowed the CVHN dental team to perform 1108 assessments during this past school year and 1098 Varnish Fluoride Treatments. They performed 2396 Teeth Sealings in 664 Sealant Patients. Silver Diamine Fluoride Teeth Treatments were performed 1182 times and there were 1425 total teeth with decay in the children treated. The dental professionals found over 246 Permanent Teeth with decay and 152 urgent care forms were sent home with the children. In Walton County, the schools served were Paxton School, Mossy Head School, Maude Saunders Elementary, Butler Elementary, and Dune Lakes Elementary. In Okaloosa County: Riverside Elementary, Walker Elementary, Laurel Hill School, and Baker School CVHN is adding a second bus which will provide restorative dental care to children in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The second bus is in the sketch and design phase. We hope to have the new bus here in the fall of 2021.

BBBSNWFL Names Big of the Year Award

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida presented Big Sister Cindy Kahl with the Okaloosa County Big of the Year Award. Every year a Big who has made a significant influence on the emotional growth and development of their Little is presented with the Big of the Year Award. “A big surprise,” says Kahl. “I think that the program is very rewarding not only for the Littles but for the Bigs as well.” Cindy and her Little Sister Gaby have been matched for two years. Cindy, having been a mentor in the past, decided to become a Big Sister because she wanted to support local children in need and make a positive one-toone impact. Cindy has become a strong, positive influence in Gaby’s life. Academically, Cindy has helped Gaby with her schoolwork which has resulted in an upward turn in her grades. She incorporates math in their dayto-day activities such as gardening projects or by having Gaby help measure an area and calculate how many bricks are needed to finish a project in her yard. Cindy incorporates her Little Sister’s family with community service activities like inviting them to pick grapefruits from the trees on her property and donating them to an organization that helps feed people in need. Additionally, Cindy and her Little Sister wrote thank you letters to be sent to hospitals across the country to thank them during the COVID-19 pandemic for all their hard work. BBBSNWFL appreciates how much thoughtfulness and love Cindy has put into everything she does, not just with her Little but with her family. To learn more about how to get involved, visit www.bbbsnwfl. org/get-involved.


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3 Locally Owned Restaurants 3 Different Experiences ALL BY THE SAME CULINARY PROFESSIONALS

Seafood & Sushi for the whole family

Fresh from the Gulf Local Ingredients Southern Hospitality

210 HARBOR BLVD. | DESTIN, FL | 850.460.8900 | BROTULAS.COM 56 HARBOR BLVD. | DESTIN, FL | 850.424.3507 | EASTPASSSEAFOOD.COM 36120 EMERALD COAST PKWY. | DESTIN, FL | 850.460.2909 | JACKACUDAS.COM 68 brotulas.indd 1

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VIP Destin at Baytowne Marina at The Village of Baytowne Wharf

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Tournament photos & story by Greg Alexander


rom Thursday, June 24 - Sunday the 27, The Village of Baytowne Wharf is truly transformed into a fishing village. The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic takes place each year at the Baytowne Marina, where the weigh ins culminate with throngs of fans, vendors, locals, and tourists all in awe of the catches that are weighed underneath the digital screens providing all the details of the catch. This multimillion dollar, multi day tournament that draws anglers from near and far is looked forward to each year by men and women who cannot resist the challenge of fish fighting on the other end of their lines. The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort has become one of the largest elite biggame fishing tournaments in the world, now in its 19th year with over 80 sport fishing boats all full of passionate sportsmen vying for their share of the almost $2 million purse. To compete in this tournament, it takes a great crew, a well-equipped boat, and a keen sense of adventure on the Gulf of Mexico. Often, fishermen competing in this Classic are second or third generation in their family to compete. Tournament officials say the competition lasts a total of 58 hours with the official start of tournament is at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday and continuing straight on through until 10:00 p.m. on Saturday. This length of time allows all who

participate to take full advantage of the prime weather and fishing hours. Virtually all of the teams stay way out in the Gulf over Thursday and Friday night and only come back in when it’s time for the weigh-in on Saturday night. This tournament turns the prize tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and blue marlin into gold as the prizes for the largest of each will reach five figures and more. This year, High Cotton, a 92 Viking based in Katy, Texas, won the biggest payout. The team, led by owner Pete Bell, Captain Allan Legge, and angler Cliff Mountain, walked away with $394,436 for the top marlin and marlin jackpot categories. High Cotton boated the largest fish of the week, a blue that tipped the scales at 681 pounds. The overall cash prizes in this year’s contest totaled $1.975 million, the second-largest purse in the tournament’s 19-year history. The 88-boat fleet collectively caught 36 blue marlin, 17 whites, and two sailfish. Three blues were boated for an overall release ratio of 94.5 percent. In the game fish tallies, 30 wahoo were brought in, along with 13 tuna and 13 dolphin. “It was a great week with some quality fish brought to the scales, including a new ECBC record tuna,” says Tournament Director Jason Draughn. “The weather cooperated and I’d like to thank all 88 teams for fishing with us again. I look forward to celebrating 20 years of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic on June 2226, 2022.”

photo by Kevin Dukes

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VIP Destin at Baytowne Marina at The Village of Baytowne Wharf

Jordan Whiteman, Brett & Robin Posey, Ava Whiteman & Brooke Elliott

Winners: High Cotton



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Abbey Opelenik and Amber Joy

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VIP Destin at J. Leon Gallery + Studio 1 Year Anniversary

Jason Lindblad and Megan Patterson

photos submitted & story by Greg Alexander


n Friday, June 4 J.Leon Gallery + Studio, the area’s newest fine art gallery, celebrated one year in business by welcoming more than 90 art enthusiasts to celebrate their big night. During the event, Visit South Walton’s 2019 Artist of the Year, Jenna Varney, revealed her anniversary painting, “The Perfect Anniversary” a 36” x 48” acrylic. More than six consecutive months in the making, this one-of-a-kind piece was inspired by a beautiful McCaskill and Company diamond necklace. A live artist painting by Joan Vienot continued throughout the evening. Visitors also enjoyed champagne, wine, and delicious food by The Board Chef. “What a year this has been and how fortunate we are to have been able to be a part of the community- bringing arts to everyone. We are so glad to have been able to work with our wonderful artists and so thankful for all of our patrons - and we look forward to bringing even more arts to our community.” - Jason Lindblad, Owner & Artist, J.Leon Gallery + Studio Over the last year, the gallery has represented 18 artists, both local and regional, had 388 total pieces of art cycle through the gallery, held 8 total Sip N’ Strolls for visitors to enjoy, taught a total of 19 ceramics classes by Ceramicist, Megan Patterson, and used more than 925 pounds of clay. J.Leon Gallery + Studio is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For additional information, class, and workshop signup, and to view upcoming events visit and follow the gallery on Facebook and Instagram.

Jenna Varney, Estelle Grengs and Andrea Chipser

Steve Barber, Bobby Wagner and Denise Song

Artist Jenna Varney 72


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DESTIN'S NEWEST FINE ART DESTINATION J L EO N G A L L E R Y.C O M | 8 5 0. 8 4 2 . 3 0 5 1 13370 US HWY 98, MIRAMAR BEACH, FL 32550


Sip N’ Stroll


F IR ST FRIDAY O F E ACH M O N T H 5 PM - 7 P M Enjoy an evening of art at J.Leon Gallery and Studio with wine, champagne, and light snacks. Get the chance to view artists creating their work. Enter into a drawing for an original artwork. Tour our gallery and fully functioning ceramics studio and delight in a night of creativity.

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Bracken Law, PA serves the areas of Destin, 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Miramar Beach, Panama City Beach, Niceville and Fort Walton Beach, Florida.


(850) 792-2677 | | 30A | 2930 W. County Highway 30A, Suite 210 | Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 Holiday Plaza | 12273 Emerald Coast Parkway, Suite 107 | Miramar Beach, FL 32550


2014 - 2019

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2016, 2018 - 2020

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Beach Flag Warning System Florida’s Beach Flag Warning System uses flags in four colors to explain the water conditions on the beach. This system is in place for your safety. Please observe and obey the Flag System during your stay on the Emerald Coast.

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2nd ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT August 27th | Hidden Creek Golf Club

Sponsorship & Foursomes available! For more information please contact Denise Song, 321-432-3620 or

Proceeds benefit:

Hole-in-One sponsors:

food and spirits Established in 2020, Bitterroot Food and Spirits is Destin’s premiere establishment for high-end cuisine and cocktails. Thoughtfully crafted and always fresh, we aim to lead the industry by example. No exceptions, no compromises.

Hours of Operation: Dine In or Take Away Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Brunch: Saturday-Sunday, 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Sunday, 4 p.m. Small Bites: Daily from 2:30-4 p.m. Happy Hour: Daily 3-6 p.m.; $5 Old Fashioned Mondays Ladies’ Night Every Thursday

850-460-8881 4463 Commons Dr West STE A | Destin, FL 32541


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story by Anna Stockton

merica’s wars have had a substantial impact on our military members. Many had multiple deployments to war-torn countries only to come home to family members who didn’t understand their struggles, wounds that may be unseen to the eye, and guilt that they were the ones who made it home. While the military offers training to those readjusting to life back home, that wasn’t always the case. Our military members, especially our reservists, were often put on a plane straight from the battlefield and landed back home, expected to carry on with regular life the next day. Today, the veteran suicide rate is at an all-time high, some estimate that 22 veterans commit suicide every day, with Viet Nam veterans making up an alarming number of these. In fact, a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs revealed that more U.S. veterans died by suicide from 2008 to 2017 than died during the entire Viet Nam War. With government organizations struggling to find a solution to this issue, veteran groups have stepped up for their brothers and sisters in arms by advocating for better care and providing the care themselves. Who better to understand and listen to a veteran’s struggles than another veteran who can relate? Operation Zero is one of these veteran organizations, providing resources, advocacy, and a shoulder to lean on.



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Interview with Kris Fleming, Southeast Regional Rep Operation Zero What is the mission of Operation Zero? Suicide has become the leading cause of death in the U.S. military—exceeding accidents, car crashes, and even combat. Historically, the suicide rate in the military has been below the civilian rate. But since the early 2000s, the rate of suicides has been steadily increasing. The Viet Nam Vet Legacy Vet Motorcycle Club has led a campaign to end Veteran Suicide. It is simply called Operation Zero – “Zero Veterans Attempt Suicide!”.

Where does funding come from for Operation Zero? All or our funding comes from donations, different grants, fundraisers, and the sale of merchandise. We sell t-shirts, pins, hats, and many other items to raise awareness and help offset the operation costs. What is one thing you want readers to know about Operation Zero? It is a personal mission for us as we have lost many close friends to suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, check in on someone, make sure they are okay. You never know when you may have been the saving moment for them. It is about helping our brothers and sisters in arms.

How was Operation Zero started? On July 11, 2015, at a meeting, a fellow veteran shared his story and struggles with suicide. He explained his desire to do something to stop veteran suicide. He was not sure what, but something, a ride, a call list, a hotline, something, as he had already lost several friends to suicide. In August of 2015 “Operation Zero” groundwork started and the program has been growing since.

What is your role with Operation Zero? My role in the program is the Southeast Reginal Rep working with State reps in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi.

What impact has Operation Zero had on the Gulf Coast community in the last year? Operation Zero has been able to reach many who have struggled, are struggling, and talk with those who have lost loved ones to suicide. We work closely with A-Hero, another veteran service organization, and have sent many at risk veterans to go hunting, fishing and other activities to help them heal and develop coping mechanisms. What are some of the greatest challenges your organization faces? One big challenge Operation Zero faces is getting civilian organizations to understand the veteran mindset. Veterans struggle differently, it can be complicated as we deal with not only depression but unseen injuries and even survivor’s guilt. We need them to understand that the kind of help may not be the same as a civilian. PTSD is real and has changed our thought process, we don’t want to be medicated or cast aside, we want to be

Describe a situation working with the organization that really stood out and touched you. We had a booth for Veterans Day at the Veterans Memorial Park downtown Pensacola, many people come up and thank us for our mission. Many talked about loved ones they had lost, their own struggles and attempts. The tears, laughter, and support given and received was powerful and showed the need for an organization like Operation Zero in the community.

heard and talk to other veterans who can relate and understand what we have gone through. Another challenge is continuing to lose veterans, some that we have worked with, served with or are friends and family. Finally, as with any new organization, the challenge of getting the word out about our goal and mission.

How can someone become involved or donate? Someone can get involved by contacting myself, Kris Fleming, at 850-485-9121, or by talking to any Viet Nam Legacy Vets MC member. We are always looking for donations, ways to publish our mission, put up posters, have our symbol posted at businesses, and get the word out to the public and build our connections with the local community. July 2021 | 79

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U.S. Navy Afghan-$50.00

Jefferson Americana Children’s Shoe - $40 Pink - Blue - Avenue 850-424-5707

U.S. Air Force Afghan-$50.00

US Flag Sculpture - enamel on copper - $1100

Black Rifle Coffee-$14.99 12oz Bag

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William Blanken What is your hometown and how did you end up on the Emerald Coast? I was raised in Sayreville, NJ, where I left my home to enlist in The US Navy, spending much of my service overseas. After the Navy, I returned to New Jersey where I met my wife, Jane Marie, and worked in the food service industry. About 12 years ago we traveled to the Emerald Coast to visit a friend. That was it! We decided to sell everything, pack up two cars, two dogs, and move to the Emerald Coast - best decision we ever made. What is your profession? I am a Registered Investment Advisor and owner of Blanken Management, a financial planning and investment firm. After years in the hospitality industry, I decided to make the change to the financial industry because I had spent many years understanding how money works in the investment arena. I decided I wanted to make a career sharing that knowledge with others. The transition wasn’t easy, with tough training, in-depth education, and a rigorous registration process. I offer a comprehensive, personal approach to financial investing by understanding my clients’ financial goals and share ideas about how they can achieve them. I am satisfied when I see my clients get excited about how their money works for them and when they want to learn more. What are some of your favorite things about Destin? Tough question, being that there are many answers. It’s simply, the people. There is always someone there to talk with or laugh with, who asks and cares how you are doing. There’s a willingness from Destinites to share their piece of The Emerald Coast with others. Many people come here to visit and, like myself, say, “Ok this is where I want to live.” That is the uniqueness of The Emerald Coast, people come and realize this is the place to stay. Three words that best describe you. Confident. Outgoing. Personable. Favorite place for dining and entertainment? I am not a fish guy. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the diverse culinary options of the Emerald Coast. Sometimes beachside dining is required! Formal dining has its place and sometimes casual family dining fits the bill. Dining is as much about the atmosphere as it is the food. And I’m pretty discerning, given my past life as a chef. I enjoy all the outdoor activities in this area. I like being lazy on the beach and just people watching – wherever the people may be. Though I’m not good at fishing I’ll still give it a try. What is one thing that you do not go a day without? Coffee Finish this statement, I AM DESTIN because… I enjoy the options available to all, the comradery of communities and the love for OUR Military and Veterans. Always excited about what new experiences are out there in Destin. photo by Zhalman Harris

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