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MAY 2021

Pets & People ISSUE



MARKETING! But, one of the more fun ways to

is through NETWORKING. Get

Out. Get Envolved.

your business

- Jason Hall, CEO,

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#1 R EA L ES TATE TEA M , 2 0 1 9 -2 0 !

It is our pleasure to serve your Real Estate needs! Please give us a call and tell us how we can help you make your home buying and selling dreams come true!


Amanda Hurd Team Leader-Realtor 850-375-3570

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Ashley Turner

Buyer’s Specialist 850-226-2102

4/29/21 9:19 AM


Volume XVIII • Issue V

events 13 2021 Black Tie Ball 27 Crescendo! Kick Off Lunch 30 Gregg Orr Marine Ribbon Cutting 34 D’Vine Gospel Brunch 36 Step One Automotive TRX Launch 43 Business Before Hours 47 Sandestin Wine Festival 52 Concerts in the Village Queen 58 Hannah Martin’s Party 61 15th Annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown 69 Business After Hours at BOTE 73 Band & BBQ 80 Beach Clean Up Day

departments 32 40 50 56 65 76 78 82

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

features 38 Pets & Their People

VIP Destin Magazine Staff

on the cover Ashley & Brendan McMahon, Jamie Cooper

Publisher Greg Alexander

Art Director Priscilla Atkins

Associate Publisher Verla Price

Graphic Design Patti Hall

Editor Jeff Watson

Contributing Writers/ Photographers Jessica Bracken Britt Clark Zhalman Harris Paul Kalis Barrett McClean Verla Price Anna Stockton Kristina Wright

Photography by Barrett McClean

Advertising Stephanie Alvarez Kristin Moffitt Kevin O’Rourke Verla Price Jeff Watson

at the 2021 Black Tie Ball

Publisher’s Assistant Anna Stockton

VIP Founder Jeff Watson May 2021 | 9

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letter from the Associate Publisher Welcome to our May issue featuring photos from the Black Tie Ball. VIP Destin’s celebration for the 2021 Best In Destin winners. You will find pages of local business people enjoying cocktails, dinner, and awards. If Izzy could write, she would welcome you to our May issue featuring Pets and People. Let’s face facts, I am the mother of a tiny, beautiful, rescued Pomeranian that controls my life, and I say things like “if Izzy could write.” I always thought of myself as a bigger dog person and was amused at people who carried little foo-foo dogs in handbags. I am now the woman with the foo-foo dog in a purse catering to 5 lbs. of fluff night and day. She has clothes, a car seat, and so many beds around the house that you cannot run the vacuum. She demands attention, barks all the time, threatens to bite anyone who comes near me, and creates havoc in general. When all speak true, most of us are on the same crazy path of furball destruction. We are in love with soft, gentle eyes and wrapped around furry little paws. The care for our fur babies dictates our day-to-day activities, work schedules, vacation schedules, and even our relationships. Izzy knows you will enjoy reading VIP Destin Magazine this month. You will fl ip through pet-oriented pages and read stories of K9 Police dogs and Alaqua’s rehabilitation of pets large and small. Coastal Cuisine spotlights places in Destin where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner with the confidence that they will welcome your best buddy with a cool bowl of water. I think after you read Destin Style and see all those cute accessories, you will be on the phone ordering one of those cute little bathrobe sets. I hope you will take the time to make a donation or decide to adopt a pet after seeing the many non-profit organizations in May We Suggest. It might seem as if we forgot about the “people” part of this issue when in reality, you will see page after page of people attending events—Business After Hours, Matti Kelly Concerts in the Village, and the Crescendo Kick Off Lunch. Featured in I am Destin is Dr. Devon Stephenson, one of my favorite people from North West Florida StateCollege. Izzy thanks you for reading this issue, and I thank YOU for supporting VIP Destin Magazine; please be kind, courteous, and shop local.

Associate Publisher

Team VIP Destin Magazine Kristin Moffitt, Anna Stockton, Kevin O’Rourke, Stephanie Alvarez, Greg Alexander, Verla Price & Jeff Watson 10


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VIP Destin at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa


april 10, 2021 photos by Paul Kalis, Barrett McClean & Kristina Wright


story by Greg Alexander

hile gatherings of all sorts have been limited, an extravagant black-tie gala had not happened in Destin in over 13 months --- until April 10 when VIP Destin Magazine hosted the 2021 Best in Destin winners at the annual Black Tie Ball. Normally in March, this semi delayed event was welcomed by everyone who entered. The excitement was palpable with attendees, winners, and guests donning their most formal and festive attire to gather and celebrate. Again, this year, the event was held at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa with grand style. As winners arrived on the red carpet, they were greeted by the VIP Destin Magazine team. This year’s event was held in the more spacious Emerald Ballroom with a cocktail reception held prior in the Coastal Ballroom foyer. The exclusive crowd was so glad to finally mingle with new and old friends in this setting. The ballroom fi lled with 250 people and a fabulous celebratory dinner was served. Awards got underway as each Best In Destin winner was acknowledged on stage. The winners were so grateful to VIP Destin Magazine’s fans, readers, and audience for their patronage and their confidence in voting for them. Guests stayed after the presentation to soak in the occasion and experience photo opportunities and entertainment by Cadillac Willy. Guests left with fun take-away bags fi lled with items from winning businesses, sponsors and friends of VIP Destin Magazine including specialty canned cocktails from Tip Top Proper Cocktails and Cool Liquid Cushion Flawless Skin Pacts from HollyHoux, and much more. VIP Destin Magazine is proud to provide a platform for readers to express their devotion and appreciation to the many businesses that make the Destin area so great. With over 300,000 certified votes this year, every winner and nominee should be proud of their accomplishment and that their peers and patrons took the time to support the people and places they believe in.

May 2021 | 13

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VIP Destin at the Black Tie Ball

Xx & Xx Fant & Fernando Arellano Rafaella

Tiffany Xx & Xx& Shon Kingrey

Kendra Xx & Xx & Vince Marasa

Xx & Xx& Eric Reilly Eileen

Xx & Xx David Grantham & Vicki Brady

Teresa Xx & Xx& Bob Halverson

Xx & Dr. Fady Xx Shaaban, Karen & Jarold Thummel

Xx & Milligan Amy Xx & Joe Severino 14

Dave & Aleta Jefferson Xx & Xx

Xx & Ed & Xx Denise Kendust

Xx & Xx MaryFrancis Mullins & Keasha Jones

Alyssa Xx & XxTurner & Irene Frankhouse

Bob Xx &&XxDebbie West, Cecilia & Matt Avery

Jane & William Blanken Xx & Xx

Xx & Xx& Dr. Richard Reno Funmi

Farin Edison , Amanda Hurd, Ashley Turner & Ragan Dutra

Xx &Hepple Eric Xx & Morgan Brittany Milam

Xx & Xx Craig Harvey & Dr. Alexandra Ortega


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Bryce Xx & Xx & Miranda Jarvis

Alan Xx & Gieseman Xx & Leslie Moland

Fisher Xx & XxKoch, Maggie White & Tim Brand

Brandon Xx & Xx & Brooke Maxwell

Kaylea Windes, Jason Klosterman, Xx & Xx Mary Anne Windes & Jenn Buswell

Xx & Xx David Kirk

Mariah Xx & Xx& Scott Reynolds

Ginger Xx & Xx& Jeffery Pedersen

Tom Xx &Furr, Xx Esq. & Kim Smith

Ashley Xx & Xx& Brendan McMahon, Jamie Cooper

Diane Xx & Xx Fraser & Catherine Fraser

XxBob & Xx& Lorre James

Rachel Perret, Katie Kennedy, Emily Whitlock , Brianne Xx & Xx Davis, Ragan Griggs & Alison Churchill Xx & Xx

Johnny Xx & Xx & Jennifer Moses

Lakin Xx & Xx Deveaux & Chloe Sansom

Brandy Wesson, Andrea Patten, Xx & Shirley Xx Allyson & Reagan Caruso

Xx & XxBodie & Preston Green Megan May 2021 | 15

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VIP Destin at the Black Tie Ball

Bobby & Sarah Brazwell

Sarah & Kyle Hock

Michael & Erica Rutledge

Lynne Tanner, Susan Bradley & Melissa Bergeron-Neeb Joanne Williams & Alex Williams

Dr. JP Tinkler & Tracy Sneed

Tiffany & Stu Booker

Sabrina Shelton, Vicky Clements, Jack Bigger, Hayley Neville, Mary Daniell, Danielle Mcgraw & Jennifer Katalinic

Emily & William Kelly

Cissy & Steve Reynolds

Kerri & Dr. Nicholas Papajohn

Josefina Andujar, Eris Rosas & Luis Andujar

Matt & Jacqui Luberto

Tyler Parker & Kaitlyn Miller

Todd Reeves & Mary Chris Murry

Chris Irons & Amber Scheel

Wayne Paul & Susan Kiley

Johnna & Dr. Michael Stickler May 2021 | 17

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VIP Destin at the Black Tie Ball

Pete D’Agnese & McKenzie Gorie

Jay Ammons & Kristin Moffitt

Peyton Williamson, Breana Williamson, Michael Rutledge, Erica Rutledge, Alyssa McDonough, Lexi Morrill, Austin Carroll, Baleigh Baker & Andrew Hannah


Josh & Janie Schmidt

Loretta Myers & Whitney Perry

Julia & Andre Drevinskas

Jeff Watson & Maggie Yelverton

Mike & Linda Stahl

Phil & Shannon Lynch

Nicole & Jason Floyd

Bill & Jamie Graves

JD & Whitney Whidden

Tiffany Clemons & Julia Robertson

Gregory & Gulia Metcalf

Lee & Carrie Pardue

Kelly Motes & Steven Franco

Kevin O’Rourke & Glenn Liguori

Darien & Trey Runnels

Cameron & Stephanie Rowe


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VIP Destin at the Black Tie Ball

Chae Kyle & Tanis Kyle

Chris & Brooke Wheeler

Lidia Gradinaru, Dana Lewellen, Ionela Taege & Angelica Thorning

Sereen Gualtieri & Meg Walters

Edita Klinkel & Mabell Mallens

xx Jeff Sarault & Ed Villar

Nicholas Reimer & Thris Le

Verla Price & Michael Christian

Gus Arriola

Dr. Cheri Dunn

Greg Arriola & Heather Bates

Jeff Jacob

Ian Blaise

Denise Song

Kevin & Morag Rosa

Nico Gara, Jeremie Leach, Greg Chavers, Tiffany Kingrey, Fernando Arellano, Jared Johnston, Raffaella Fant, Phil Lynch, Shon Kingrey, Nick Cybela, Derrick Birreau, Maureen Bierman & Stu Booker

Greg Alexander & Young Kim May 2021 | 21

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VIP Destin at the Black Tie Ball



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May 2021 | 23

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Shopping & Retail Place to Spoil Her Allyson Salon and Spa Gift Shop Bay Breeze Patio

Outdoor Furniture Bay Breeze Patio

Wine Shop/Liquor Store Beach Liquors Seafood Market Blalock Seafood & Specialty Market

Locally Owned Retailer Cheetah Chix Boutique

Shopping/Lifestyle Center Destin Commons Place to Spoil Him Electric Cart Company Jewelry Emerald Lady Jewelry

Furniture isidro dunbar MODERN INTERIORS

Home Decor/ Accessories Not Too Shabby by Marisol Gullo Eyeglasses/Sunglasses O’Donnell Eye Institute Children’s Clothing Pink -n- Blue Avenue

Women’s Accessories Sea & Sand Jewelry

Shoe Store Sunset Shoes & Lifestyles Women’s Clothing Today’s Boutique

Men’s Clothing Tommy Bahama Retail

Entertainment Place for “Girl’s Night Out” AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar Place for a Date Beach Walk Cafe

Place to Go Dancing Bric à Brac Restaurant & Bar Water Sports Experience Cruisin Tikis Destin Local Annual Event Destin Fishing Rodeo

Place to People Watch HarborWalk Village

Place to Watch a Sunset HarborWalk Village Hotel The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa Resort Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Party Boat Experience Destin Princess/ Destiny Party Boat Fishing

Golf Course Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club

Charter Fishing Experience Gulf-Angler Fishing Charters

Place to Be Seen The Village of Baytowne Wharf

Place to Take the Kids Emerald Coast Science Center

Place for a Weekend Getaway The Island Ft. Walton Destin by Hotel RL

Health & Wellness

Anti Aging Service Aqua Medical Spa

Podiatrist Bay Foot & Ankle Center Dermatology Practice Coastal Skin Surgery and Dermatology Urgent Care Destin ER

Plastic Surgery Destin Plastic Surgery Weight Loss Dr. Cheri DunnDunn Diabetes & Wellness Center

Pediatrician Dr. Richard Reno White-Wilson Medical Center

Alternative/Natural Medicine Kyle Chavers, MD, IFMCP Foundations Medical Center Place for a Massage Hand and Stone Massage & Facial Spa Aesthetician Janice CraigheadThe Aesthetic Clinique

Doctor Michael Stickler, MDDermatology Specialists of FL Women’s Wellness Provider Renew Aesthetics & Anti-Aging Clinic Dental Practice Smileology

Pain Management Dynamic Pain & Wellness

Medical Spa Stephen F. Weiner, MD The Aesthetic Clinique

Vision Care Eye Center South

Cosmetic Dentist The Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

Chiropractic Clinic Emerald Coast Chiropractic Miramar Beach

Medical Center Fort Walton Beach Medical Center

Orthodontist Stubbs Orthodontics

Senior Living Community The Manor at Blue Water Bay Vein/Vascular Care The Vein Center of Florida

Medical Practice White-Wilson Medical Center

Wedding & Bridal Wedding Venue Destin Bay House

Wedding Planner Fancy Events Place for Stationery/Invites Frill Seekers Gifts Reception Venue Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa

Place to Buy Wedding Dress Simply Elegant Bridal Place to Get a Tuxedo Simply Elegant Bridal

Place for Rehearsal Dinner Vue on 30a Place to Pop the Question Vue on 30a

Place to Buy Engagement Ring McCaskill & Company

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Services Limo/Transportation Service 654LIMO, Inc. Event Rentals 850 Event Rentals

Charity/Non-Profit Alaqua Animal Refuge Hair Salon Allyson Salon and Spa

Specialty Contractor Destin Discount Granite & Cabinets

Flooring Destin Flooring America Florist Destin Floral Designs Golf Cart/ATV Dixielectricar

Place for Eyelashes, Nails, or Makeup Amazing Lash Studio

Bank/Financial Institution Eglin Federal Credit Union

Real Estate Company Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - PenFed Reatly

Landscaping/Lawn Service Emerald Coast Outdoor Services

Vacation Rental Beachwalk Vacation Properties

New Business Bitterroot

Photographer Bobby Wagner

Real Estate Team Century 21 Blue Marlin Pelican

Alarm/Security Company Coastal Protection, Inc. IT Firm/Web Design CRC Data Technologies Accounting Firm Debra Henry, CPA

Place for Coffee 2 Bird’s Coffee & Cafe BBQ 98 Bar-B-Que

Catering Big Red Truck

Special Occasion Restaurant Bijoux Outdoor Dining Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer Buffalo Wings Buffalo Jack’s Legendary Wings & Pizza Margarita Cantina Laredo

Italian Restaurant Clemenza’s at Uptown Breakfast Crackings

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Sign Company Eloquent Signs

Property Management Emerald Coast Rental Management

Boat Sales & Service Gulf Coast Boating Centers Heating & Air Service Gulfshore Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc. Title Company Hall & Runnels, P.A. Customer Service Insurance Zone Insurance Firm Insurance Zone

Interior Design Firm isidro dunbar MODERN INTERIORS

Real Estate Professional- Female Jacqui Luberto Realty ONE Group Architect JDF Architecture

Real Estate - Residential Jodi Ketchersid RealJoy Properties Banker Lane ReddingProgress Bank

Real Estate - Commercial Mary Anne Windes, CCIMReal Estate Professionals of Destin Inc. Law Firm McNeese Title, LLC

General Contractor Michael SpicerSpicer Design Build, Inc. A/V Provider Palm Audio Video Inc

Pet Care & Accessories Petland Fort Walton Beach Luxury Automobile Sales Porsche Destin

Cocktails & Cuisine

Gumbo Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant

˜Bartender Maggie White - Slick Lips Seafood and Oyster House

Pizza Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria

Locally Owned Restaurant Mimmo’s

Dessert Emeril’s Coastal

Casual Dining Harbor Docks

Sushi Jackacuda’s Seafood & Sushi Chef Jay AmmonsSlick Lips Seafood and Oyster House Crab Cakes Louis Louis

Burger LuLu’s Destin

Event Planner Proffitt PR

Public Relations Firm Proffitt PR

Mortgage Lender Progress Bank - Brandi Ealy Homebuilder Randy Wise Homes

Real Estate Professional- Male Royce W. Mitchell Event Venue Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Payroll Firm/Human Resources SimpleHR Automobile Dealership- New Step One Automotive Group Automobile Repair/Service Step One Automotive Group Pool Building/Service Sunset Blues Pool Service

Interior Designer/Decorator Todd D. Reeves Automobile DealershipPre Owned Volkswagen Subaru Fort Walton Beach

Financial Advisor William Edward Blanken, Jr. Blanken Management

Steakhouse Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood

Fine Dining Marina Cafe

Bar/Tavern Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar

Place for Cocktails Ocean Club Restaurant

Seafood Restaurant Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House

Asian Osaka

Appetizer Pazzo Italiano Ristorante & Bar

Mexican/Latin American Restaurant Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant Happy Hour Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina

Oysters Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar

Brunch Sunset Bay Cafe

Outdoor Bar The Beach House Restaurant Bloody Mary The Red Bar

Wine List Vin’tij Food & Wine Beer Selection World of Beer

4/29/21 9:25 AM

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VIP Destin at Bijoux Restaurant + Spirits

Jeff Dannelly, Kelsey Lynch, Anastasia Stull & Dennis Lichorwic DMD

Stephanie Brannon & Brooke St. Hilaire


photos & story by Britt Clark

rescendo! 2021 was kicked off recently with a fabulous lunch at Bijoux Restaurants + Spirits to benefit Sinfonia Gulf Coast. Guests participated in raffles for many prizes that were on display while they sipped elegant wines. Inside the restaurant was a pop-up jewlery shop situated just inside the wine room. Guests enjoyed socializing with each other and catching up after such a long period of separation. There was VIP seating outside where the beautiful spring weather was enjoyed at tables decorated with fresh cut flowers. A special menu was provided for the event and was hand crafted by Co-owner/Chef Jack McGuckin. The sold-out event was proof of its success.

Kate Kelly & Lauren Gall

Cindi Hyatt & Betty White

Harmony Nagy & Jill Bauer

Anastasia Stull & Kelsey Lynch

Teresa Allen, Denise Kendust, Emily Friedlander, Jenni Brunson & Denise Song May 2021 | 27

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VIP Destin at Crescendo Kick Off Lunch

Lynn Shearer & Heavenly Darson

Mary Aho, Steve Barber & Leighann Elliott

Jannis Bishop & Maureen Gamble

Beth Beno, Donna Rainwater & Heather Parrish 28

Lisa Foster & Karen Morris

Pam Wellborn & Marry Johnson

Tracy McFarland, Leta Dohan & Dora Tomlian

Connie Yarbro & Kathleen Flall

Joan Carter, Shawn Thomasello & Candice Wilson


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VIP Destin at Gregg Orr Marine

Tim Kersanac & Peggy King

Lavonne Ellis, Shayla Burch & Reeves Ellis

Gregg Orr Marine Ribbon Cutting photos & story by Britt Clark


ribbon cutting ceremony took place on March 23 for Gregg Orr Marine’s new location and was hosted by the Destin Chamber. The new Gregg Orr location on the Harbor Boulevard carries the brands Skeeter, Regulator, and Sea Fox, along with some others. They will also have pre-owned boats in the near future. While the ribbon cutting ceremony was taking place, the dealership took delivery of a new $1.1 million 41ft Contender Center Console they will be offering for sale. The dealership served fried fish along with fixings and drinks on the back patio area for guests in attendance.

Kevin Kaple, Peggy King, Jeff Matz, Chris Sailors, Sam Kirby & Dusty Wangerin

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Thank you for voting for us! We love our Community and Patients!

Dr. Casi Stubbs, DMD, PA Winning Best in Destin Makes Us

SMILE! 2021

Braces for children and adults. Most insurance accepted. 850-678-8338 | STUBBSORTHO.COM


Niceville 4633 E. Highway 20 Niceville, FL

South Walton 11394 US-98 Unit B Miramar Beach, FL May 2021 | 31

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Fido Friendly Fare


story by Anna Stockton

kay,I’ll be the first to admit it, I never thought I’d be one of “those people,” you know the kind -- the ones who bring their dogs everywhere. Yet here I am -- whether it’s car line, meeting friends for dinner or even picking up groceries, Johnny’s usually along for the ride, sitting perfectly straight between kids, his perfectly coifed poodle ‘do giving the appearance of an elderly lady enjoying the scenery on a slow Sunday drive. With more pet owners bringing their pups along, many local businesses, especially these restaurants, are happy to accommodate and welcome their four-legged customers.

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Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant.. Pepito’s

is known for their wonderful margaritas, Mexican food, and great atmosphere, but they’re also known for their pup friendly patio. With many food choices available and a great happy hour, Pepito’s is a fun place to spend an evening, for both you and your fur baby.

Fat Clemenza’s.. Miramar Beach’s Clemenza’s has everything you’re looking for in an Italian restaurant, pizzas and pastas and oh, the desserts. This, along with their pet friendly patio make for a relaxing evening with comfort food and cocktails. Mimmo’s Ristorante Italiano.. Another Italian favorite in the area is Mimmo’s, known for their Italian cuisine in a charming and subdued atmosphere with dog friendly outside seating. The menu is an Italian food lover’s dream with pastas, salads, lasagnas and pizzas. Your pup will love all the attention they get from the staff while you sip on wine from Mimmo’s extensive wine list. Slick Lips.. With their award-winning chef and

amazing food, Slick Lips in the Village of Baytowne Wharf is a must-visit. Combine that with a pet-friendly patio and you’ve got the perfect combination. This seafood and oyster bar offers outdoor seating for you and your pooch and a chance to enjoy great people watching while you sip on your cocktail.

Sunset Bay Café.. Also located in Sandestin

is Sunset Bay Café. A family owned and operated restaurant offering casual dining overlooking the bay. They offer local produce and fresh caught catches straight from the docks in Destin along with patio seating for you and your pup to enjoy the beautiful view.

Emeril’s Coastal Italian.. This famous pet-friendly restaurant serves up Italian food with an emphasis on seafood. The outdoor patio offers a cozy place for your pup to get comfortable and soak up the atmosphere while you enjoy your meal. Don’t forget to try one of their many unique cocktails while you relax on the patio, such as the Bam! At the Beach. Jackacudas.. Named after a specific fishing

spot off the coast of Destin known for Amberjacks and Barracudas, Jackacudas brings together friends, families, tourists and yes, pups, all in a relaxing atmosphere. The menu has a little something for everyone with sushi and seafood with a little Southern flair. Their outdoor area is perfect for your pet to join you while you enjoy this unique experience.

Cantina Laredo.. Another Sandestin gem is

Cantina Laredo at Grand Boulevard. This Mexican restaurant boasts food that’s inspired by Mexico City, with a modern twist. The expansive outdoor seating area is a great place for you and your pet to relax while doing some great pup and people watching. The dessert menu and award-winning margarita will have you sitting back and staying a while.

Another Broken Egg.. Looking for a breakfast place for yourself and your four -egged friend? Look no further than Another Broken Egg Café, with multiple locations. This breakfast staple offers brunch cocktails, creative eats and seasonal selections, all with a pet friendly patio. Talk about a perfect way to start your day!

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4/29/21 9:31 AM

D’Vine Gospel Brunch

Pam Deas, Paula Saunders & Sheryl Pollard Riggins


photos & story by Kay Phelan

he National Endowment for the Arts describes D’Vine as an American masterpiece, whose artistic excellence and significant contribution to its artform has left a lasting impression on the national landscape. Paula Saunders, Pam Deas, and Sheryl Pollard Riggins have performed for millions of people around the world. From Presidential Inaugurations, to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, to Athens, Greece, D’Vine has traveled the world delivering songs that linger in the hearts of audiences long after the group has left the stage. D’Vine has also performed for Sinfonia Gulf Coast, the region’s only professional symphony, on numerous occasions over the years. Eager Sinfonia supporters attended the sold-out event to listen to the amazing singing talents of D’Vine. And, true to form, D’Vine dazzled the guests with an array of songs from humorous to deeply emotional. Guests also enjoyed a sumptuous brunch at the charming, new Hotel Effie in Sandestin. Sinfonia’s founder and Music Director, Demetrius Fuller, commented, “The genuine appeal and talent of D’Vine is captivating, leaving our patrons completely inspired by these incredible artists.”


Bill & Heavenly Dawson

Jack & Bobbie White

Tim Kreuger & Jill Cadenhead

Val & Mike Thompson

Gail Ferguson & Monique de Chazal

Jennifer & Blevin Howard


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VIP Destin at Hotel Effie

Demetrius Fuller & Sheila Vaughn

JR Blankenship & Scott Russell



1280 Emerald Coast Parkway Suite 113B, Miramar Beach, FL


Gretchen Ryan & Denise Song

Deborah Elmore, Myra Williams & Lynn Wesson


2254 South Ferdon Boulevard Crestview, FL May 2021 | 35

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VIP Destin at Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Dealership

Step One Automotive

TRX LAUNCH photos & story by Jeff Watson


tep One Automotive held the TRX Launch at its Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Fort Walton Beach n April 17. The launch of the all-new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX showcased the most anticipated model of the year. This high-tech, luxurious beast of a truck features a 702 horsepower supercharges 6.2 liter Hemi V8 and has the looks to go along with the power. The Step One staff greeted guest with refreshments, barbecue, prizes and giveaways. With DJ Kevin spinning tunes and Haeli tying balloons, the TRX launch had a great party vibe throughout the day!

Kristy Chavers, Greg Chavers & Haeli Scott

Jeremie Leach

Team Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Dealership 36


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Darra Flanagan & Nina Page

food and spirits Sydney Johnson

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.

Monet Carpenter & Parker Dewrell

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

THANK YOU FOR VOTING US BEST NEW BUSINESS! Justin Edmond, Dameon Griffin & Jack Deathrow May 2021 | 37

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4/29/21 9:32 AM

Pets & Their People Dr. Cather McKay with Taco

Dr. Layne Fielder with Bravo Angie with Cooper, Jessica & Natalie with Fenway

Dr. David Adams with Gracie

Miranda Jarvis with Barley Jason, Desiree & Denvyr with Fin

Myranda Singletary with Alex Jay Johnson with Max

Sara Erdwins with Boris

Emerald Coast Compounding Champ, Lucy & Margarita

isidro dunbar Modern Interiors Stefanie Feltner with Kipper

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Dr. Elizabeth Clark with Solo

In Loving Memory of Millie & Annabelle

4/29/21 9:32 AM



i t w h y O a u l rP P e




Family Owned and Operated 6235 N. Davis Hwy Pensacola, FL 32504 (850) 637.1123 Mission Statement PetlandPensacola

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415 Mary Esther Cut Off NW Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548 (850) 796-2424 PetlandFortWaltonBeach

4/29/21 9:32 AM

Law Enforcement’s Best Friend


story by Anna Stockton

s with the beginning of any new concept, the use of police K9’s in the United States was a bit “ruff.” In 1916, after sending his best inspector to study the use of police dogs in Belgium, New York City Police Commissioner Brigadier General Theodore Bingham started the first ever K9 program using 16 dogs with handlers. These dogs were used in the most basic capacity and only in certain areas during certain times. If you were a resident of Long Island and were out between the hours of 11pm and 7am, you would likely be tackled and have a police dog sitting on your chest while they waited for their handler to arrive. While they didn’t actually bite the person, I doubt there were people lining up to take early morning shifts at the bakery during these times. (Not) Surprisingly, the number of complaints by citizens, combined with the increased usage of patrol cars made the use of police dogs obsolete for a couple decades. When working dogs proved their worth in the second world war, police agencies decided to give them another chance and by the 1950’s there was a surge in K9 training programs.

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Police K9s are a huge asset to agencies. Many officers feel that the mere presence of a K9 will influence a peaceful surrender and enhance the safety of the officers and also the public. So how does a pup get chosen to be part of a law enforcement department? Depending on the department, there are breeders or agencies they go through to find the new K9 but most agencies are looking for similar traits. Contrary to popular belief, an overly aggressive or non-social dog won’t be considered, and lazy or non-motivated pups need not apply. Many K9 handlers will bring other handlers with them to choose their dog to help make a more well-rounded decision. The prospective pups are usually between 1 and 2 years old when they are chosen and can cost the department anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 depending on how much training the dog has already received. Once the pup has joined the department, the training begins for both K9 and handler. Most training programs last up to 6 months and are followed by regular monthly trainings of 15-30 hours a month. Most K9s are trained to take orders in German or Dutch -- not only for tradition, but to be more effective by not responding to the order “No” or “Stop” by a bad guy. Police K9s are a huge asset to agencies. Many officers feel that the mere presence of a K9 will influence a peaceful surrender and enhance the safety of the officers and also the public. Like many K9 handlers, Deputy Patrick McGauley feels being a handler is the best job in the department, “As a patrol dog handler you usually have some role in the most exciting calls, and it’s a good feeling to find or apprehend someone who we may not have been able to without the dog. Also, I’m a guy who enjoys his peace and quiet. I have a partner who for the most part doesn’t speak a word the entire shift.” While many police K9s are used as a first line to catch the bad guy, by holding them until the handler arrives, there are also many other uses for working dogs in the police world. Once these pups pick up a scent, they can be hot on the trail of a missing person -

very helpful in search and rescue. Explosives detection dogs are widely used these days, especially in airports and other areas with a high density of people. Human remains dogs, or cadaver dogs can detect remains up to 15 feet underground and almost 100 feet underwater. A fairly new way police are using dogs is electronics detection -- these special pups can sniff out anything from thumb drives to tiny microSD cards. This is key in preventing terrorist attacks and other computer related crimes by ensuring every piece of evidence is found, even those wellhidden or overlooked by police. Locally, Okaloosa County has nine multi-use patrol dogs. One thing most people don’t realize is that these K9’s aren’t all work and no play. They’re pups who love to run and play with their toys, they’re also loving members of the handler’s family. The bond between K9 and handler is like no other and once the dog’s days of working are over, they usually retire to a nice, relaxing life with their family. May 2021 | 41

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10% military discount every monday KIDS EAT TUESDAY kidsFREE eat EVERY free every tuesday (with adult entree purchase)

10% MILITARY DISCOUNT EVERY MONDAY (with adult entree purchase)


1176 Eglin Pkwy, Shalimar Fl 32579 850.398.5042


1900 S Ferdon Blvd Ste 140 Crestview, Fl 32536 850.631.6970


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4/29/21 9:33 AM

Business Before Hours


photos & story by Greg Alexander

riday, April 9 in Destin started early for many loyal Chamber members who were ready to support fellow members, network, and enjoy a hearty breakfast at the Emerald Grande. Attendance at this 7:30am event was not affected by the torrential rains and flooding that took place before and during the event. Holloway Yacht Charters sponsored the breakfast and Ryan Holloway - owner, shared a few words and some spectacular pictures of his charter experiences. The main program was led by Destin Ft. Walton Beach Airport Director, Tracy Stage and his team. Facts and figures about VPS were shared -- the most impressive fact being that VPS is a debt-free airport facility. They also announced the addition of Southwest Airlines as a proud new carrier. As always, this was a top-notch event put together by the impressively dedicated staff and volunteers of the Destin Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Board President Jerry Sullivan presided over the meeting and also awarded several quality door prizes donated by Chamber members. Everyone is encouraged to immerse themselves in the events and services that the Chamber offers.

Cassy DeJulio & Anthony Lee

VIP Destin at Emerald Grande

Tera & Brian Keister

Ryan & Heather Holloway, Isabelle Saliba

Denise Kendust, Teresa Allen & Leslie Moland

James Lopez & Barbara Pfeiffer-Marcum

Capt. Mike Howell, Lt. Chad Lewis, Allyson Oury, Tracy Stage, Mike Stenson & Chad Rogers May 2021 | 43

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VIP Destin at Business Before Hours

James Lopez & Jim Wood


Myla Martinez & Courtney Dollson

Gerard &Tracy Parillo

Kayla Percy, Stefanie Greenwood, Julia Grabko & Jerry Sullivan

Verla Price & Shane Moody

Monica Autry & Logan Law

Rachel Borgie & Kevin O’Rourke

Denise Song & Misty Rae Ruthrauff

Chuck Mitchell & Ken Wampler

Brenda Gray, Fred Fenn, Ivana Coteat, Bill Head & Trisha Marks


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Progress Looks Like Creating Memories That Make A New House

Destin 35008 Emerald Coast Pkwy 850.837.1380


Inlet Beach 12805 US Hwy 98 E 850.909.0420 Santa Rosa Beach 3063 US Highway 98 850.724.1400

NMLS# 401921

May 2021 | 45

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4/29/21 9:36 AM

Sandestin Wine Festival


VIP Destin at The Village of Baytowne Wharf

photos & story by Jeff Watson

he weekend of April 16 was notable for both wine aficionados and wine novices in the Southeast as many wine drinkers fled to the Sandestin Wine Festival. The festival features four days of unique events with a wide range of experiences from attending wine dinners with celebrity chefs, participating in preview events throughout the year, taking part in wine tastings that showcase hundreds of wines, or just hanging out in the Village with friends, Wine novices are able to learn more about wines and sample from a comprehensive selection in all varieties, styles, and price range. Attendees had the opportunity to immediately purchase their favorite selections at the Retail Tent at a discounted rate, The live music, interactive experiences at the culinary tents, and shops and dining of the Village of Baytowne Wharf took the experience to the next level. The diversity of the offerings at the Sandestin Wine Festival offered fun for everyone, whether it was wine related, exceptional food, or just good ole people watching.

Bill, Julie & Billy Kilduff

Story Parsons & Scott Krasoeetz

Lance Oelke, Carol & Larry Sanford with Pluto

Staci Roberts, Charles Bari & Lynn O’Brien

Antek Skoniecki & Melissa Allegertto, Chris & Stephanie Larkin May 2021 | 47

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VIP Destin at Sandestin Wine Festival

Debra, Leighann & Kevin Elliott

Christine Fox & Mary Bailey

Scott Miller, Lori Smith, Shaye Smith, Amanda Morzos & Julie Ray

Valerie & John Moody

Ann Bruner & Valla Grodzicki

Charlene Meyer & Glenn Bolton

Alejandra Rincón & Ruby Torress

Damien & Chenita Moody, Meka White, Stacey & Michael Halbrook, Chone White 48


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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

Annemarie McClain Sr. Home Loan Advisor

Cell: (850) 461-1474 Office: (850) 533-8414 NMLS ID # 1600155 Apply Online

165 Brooks Street, Suite A Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548 NMLS ID #2004055 CBM Mortgage is an Equal Housing Lender CBM Mortgage, Inc.– Company NMLS #282839 ( )

May 2021 | 49

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Posh Pets story by Anna Stockton

Is there anything more adorable than dressing your pet up? I mean, do they love it? Probably not. Do we love to pretend like they do? Absolutely we do! Our pets are becoming an increasingly large part of our lives and the pet accessory business is booming as a result. Here are some trends to keep your pet fashionable as they walk along the runway (or sidewalk). “Sweata Weatha” The only thing cuter than your pet, is your pet in a sweater. Just as we Floridians layer up in one of our four sweaters when the first sign of fall is in the air, so must our pets. Argyle, turtlenecks, and cute designs are all the rage to keep your beloved pup warm and snuggly in the crisp 60-degree air. Bathrobe Beauties Let’s be honest, does your pup need a bathrobe? Of course not! Would your pup look adorable in a bathrobe? You bet your bath bomb they will. Although these delightful garments seem a bit unnecessary, they actually do serve a purpose. With the absorbent underside, they dry your pup in a flash and help you avoid wet floors, wet furniture and a wet pup causing chaos in your house. Sun and Fun Accessories With all our outdoor time some pet owners choose to protect their fur babies from the sun using hats and sunglasses. Now this trend is definitely for pets far more well behaved than my own, but if your pampered pooch will stay still long enough, they’ll look adorable sporting a cute hat and some cat eyeglasses. These Boots are Made for Walking As a Gulf Coast resident, storms are a way of life and so are wet yards so this is a trend I can totally get behind! Boots for dogs are a thing and what a wonderful thing they are. Imagine instead of having to wipe down your pup’s paws, you just take off their boots and leave them to dry. Functionality meets fashion. 50


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VIP Destin at Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village


photos & story by Zhalman Harris


attie Kelly’s Concert in the Village began with a bang for the 2021 season on April 22 with the music of the iconic band Queen. Thanks to the new CEO of Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, Demetrius Fuller, the opening concert was graced with a symphonic-rock twist incorporating Sinfonia Gulf Coast. Guests enjoyed a night under the stars at the most beautiful outdoor music venue on the Emerald Coast, while competing in a table decorating contest, which was won by Cindy Cole Fine Homes. Honorable mentions were Velia Lala’s table for their Queen/mustache theme, Frances Roy Agency for their Earth Day theme, and Saltwater Restaurants for best food bribes. Bridging the gap between rock n’ roll and classical music, conductor/arranger Brent Havens took to the podium to present Windborne’s newest show, The Music of Queen, a program he scored to extend the listening experience of Queen’s exceptional tunes. Performed by an orchestra and amplified with a full rock band and vocals, Havens and his ensemble captured Queen’s distinct sound while presenting some familiar and lots of new musical colors. Delivering a fabulous rendition of Freddie Mercury’s vocals was Las Vegas star Brody Dolyniuk.

Bobbie Haskins, Mary Williams & Laura Mutter

Rio, Beth & Haegen Clavier, Joy Adams 52

Melanie Moore & Demetrius Fuller

Brody Dolyniuk

Renee Launiere & Keith Krull

Marcia Hull, Jackie Ely & Misty Rae Ruthrauff


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Henry Huff & Lisa Leath Turpin

Steve & Denise Baxter

Sierra McKee & Sam Perman

Gwyn & Bob Wendt

Jessi & Brian Beauchamp

Shantelle & Greg Dedicke, Susan Berry

Wayne & Jennifer Bernheisel

Larry & Vicki Hill

Teresa & David Allen

Mary & Dane Aho

Greg & Joceley Durette May 2021 | 53

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VIP Destin at MKAF Concerts in the Village

Susan Kiley & Wayne Paul

Glen Liguori, Kevin O’Rourke & Todd Reeves

Tammie & Kevin Bowyer

Annie Hinze, Megan & Kate Kelley 54

Eden Brush & Myra Williams

Shervin & Michele Rassa

Young Kim, Verla Price & Martina Mason

Melanie Moore & Maxine Orange Bern

Tyler Outten & Chris Wilkenson

Travis Spencer, Ashley Bowen & Rachel Huff


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r o

Contact Mary Fletcher

to learn about buying and selling property along the Emerald Coast

56 Million in Sales! Selling:

Sandestin • Tops’l Miramar Beach • Destin

May 2021 | 55

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4/29/21 9:39 AM

MAY 7 Sip N’ Stroll J. Leon Gallery + Studio US Hwy 98 | Miramar Beach 5:00-7:00pm Meet local artists and view work from both local and regional artists while enjoying wine, champagne, and snacks. Three new artists will be debuted at this event, plus, someone will win a piece of pottery from local ceramic artist, Skip Deems.

For further info, go to

MAY 7-9

MAY 7-8

South Walton Street Art Festival

Burning up the Beaches Downtown Fort Walton Beach The Island Hotel Destin Commons This 3-day event kicks off on Thursday, May 6, with Happy Hour at Rick’s on the Island from 6:00 – 8:00pm, rolls into Friday, May 7, with a Main Street Car Parade at 10:00am in Downtown Fort Walton Beach followed by fun all day at The Island Hotel, with a grand finale Car Show on Saturday, May 8, from 9:00am5:00pm at Destin Commons, 4100 Legendary Drive, including a DJ and music throughout the day and a Valve Cover Race taking place at 11:00am. Net funds benefit The Arc of the Emerald Coast.

Grand Boulevard Town Center Miramar Beach May 7: 3:00 – 8:00pm May 8: 10:00am-6:00pm May 9: 10:00am–6:00pm The Street Art Festival will feature dozens of visual artists and students creating works of art using only pastel chalk and their imagination. There will also be live music, games, entertainment, and an art auction. Awards will be announced Sunday at 6:00pm.

For more info or to participate, visit

Visit BurningUpTheBeaches. com for complete information.

MAY 21

MAY 8 Toast to the Coast

Bow Ties & Bling ECCAC 22nd Annual Gala

HarborWalk Village 34 Harbor Blvd. | Destin 2:00-6:00pm

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort 4000 Sandestin Blvd, South | Miramar Beach 6:00pm-midnight

Join HarborWalk Village for Toast to the Coast: A Cocktail and Culinary Celebration featuring local cuisine, signature beverages, live entertainment and the ambiance of HarborWalk Village where area restaurants will showcase masterfully matched samplings—a delectable light bite with a complementary cocktail. Enjoy a true culinary experience of perfectly paired, balanced and contrasting flavors as you sip and savor your way along the Destin Harbor.

Come dressed to impress at this annual fundraiser for Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. Emceed by David Seering, guests will enjoy dinner, dancing, and live entertainment by Mr. Big Band, as well as amazing live and silent auction items.

For more details, visit

For tickets and details, go to

Visit for more events!

Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please confirm details with event organizers. 56 |

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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 57 brotulas.indd 1

4/29/21 9:41 AM

VIP Destin at Hannah Martin’s

Hannah Martin’s Party photos by Chloe Bee Photography | story by Jessica Bracken


ocal realtor, Hannah Martin of Coastal Luxury Real Estate usually hosts an extravagant celebration drawing hundreds of people in honor of her birthday each year to benefit local charities in the community. In the wake of COVID-19, Hannah still wanted to celebrate while raising money for local beneficiaries, but in a responsible way. Hannah’s friends decided to take the reins and host a private birthday benefit at her home and created a GoFundMe for friends, family, and community partners to donate through. From generous donations, Hannah raised a total of $10,000 for Westonwood Ranch, a local organization that has been near and dear to her heart since its inception in 2017. “Everyone has been affected by this pandemic in some way. It is safe to say that most charitable business models were not prepared to have a “Plan B” in their budget for lost fundraising opportunities during a global pandemic,” said Lindy Wood, founder of Westonwood Ranch. “Hannah Martin has stood beside Westonwood Ranch for the past three years and has been a champion of the special needs community in Walton County. Through her ongoing commitment, Hannah and the foundation found a way to raise $10,000 for Westonwood Ranch in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, we are so thankful.” Hannah plans to resume hosting her La Lumière birthday bash in early 2022. For more information about the La Lumière 2022 events, visit To stay up to date with news and happenings, follow Hannah Martin’s Party on Facebook and Instagram.

Sheila Fulenwider & Pam Burden

Hannah Martin & Christine Tarpey

Kenzie Burleigh & David Hester

Brian Fairweather, Sarah Davidson, Jamie Cooper, Jessica & Levin Bracken, Nikhil Abuvala 58


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Small Local Affordable! Everything less than $30! We offer you a clean, quiet and productive environment. Thank you for voting us Locally Owned Retailer!


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.

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

May 2021 | 59

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VIP Destin at the Home of Mike and Val Thompson’s

Chi Chi Miguel

photos & story by Kay Phelan


he forces of philanthropy were once again in full play as a small gathering in Mike and Val Thompson’s Sandestin backyard in 2006 transformed into the 15th Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown on April 10. Event chairs, Mike “Chi Chi Miguel” and Valerie Thompson, along with Emeril and Alden Lagasse, put on another successful Throwdown party at Churchhill Oaks in Santa Rosa Beach. After a virtual event last year, the Throwdown gathered in person with reduced attendance and other precautions installed in consideration of attendees. While this year’s sold-out event looked a little different, guests enjoyed an energetic evening with acclaimed wines poured by Napa and Sonoma vintners, a blind wine tasting competition among celebrated vintners, and dynamic live and silent auctions. Delicious bites were catered by Marrow Private Chefs. “It has been incredible to see this event grow from a backyard barbeque with friends into the fundraising event that it is today,” says Emeril Lagasse, chairman and founder of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. “My wife Alden and I are honored by everyone’s generosity in support of youth emergency relief and food insecurity issues in our community. Thank you to our guests, winemakers, chefs, sponsors, nd friends who make it all possible.” Raising a significant $500,000, funds from the weekend benefited Emeril Lagasse Foundation and three charity recipients with a focus on children and food insecurity including Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Food for Thought, and Matrix Food Bank.

Val & Mike Thompson, Alden & Emeril Lagasse

Mark Romig, David Briggs & Dan Kosta

Darren & Tiffanie Nelson

Marisol Gullo, Susan Lovelace & Demetrius Fuller May 2021 | 61

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VIP Destin at 15th Annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown

Melissa & Tyler Jarvis

Julie & Les Porterfield

Richard & Demetria McNeese with Chanel

Chef Aaron Sanches & Alden Lagasse 62

Julie & Todd Neves

Pam Welborn & Velia Lala

Dan Kosta, Mike Thompson & Rich Aurilia

Candy Nowling & Brandon Elkins

Chelsea Fox, Cliff & Teena Hardwick

George & Stephanie Brannon

Eva & Chris Ruyan


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

photos provided by Alaqua Animal Refuge


aurie Hood founded the Alaqua Animal Refuge in 2007 when she discovered that her county, and several surrounding counties, were without an animal shelter or adoption center of any kind. Animals were being picked up in a five-county area and transported to a facility that was not open to the public, where the euthanasia rate was nearly 100%. It was a defining point in Laurie’s life when she realized this was a huge issue, not only where she lived but all around her. She knew she had to decide to ignore it or to start doing something about it. Thankfully, she did the latter, and Alaqua was practically created overnight. All of Alaqua’s broad services were designed and built from the ground up. They provide for a wide variety of animals, including dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, birds, pigs, rabbits, goats, turtles, geese and even emus. The diversity of their services comes in many forms. They rehabilitate animals that they rescue from cruelty or hoarding situations and take in animals from shelters to prevent them from being euthanized. They take in animals with mild to severe medical cases who would otherwise not have a chance to be rehabilitated. Alaqua also takes in animals from domestic violence victims so that they can leave their abusive homes and eventually be reunited with their pets. They also give animals that are trained by their staff dog trainer to families in need of a service dog but can’t afford one.

Alaqua’s staff and volunteers socialize, love, and care for all animals that come through their gates as if they were their own, while working to find them their forever homes through their full-service adoption services. Alaqua is home to the largest volunteer network on the Emerald Coast that works effortlessly to support their mission. For all animals in their care, they provide day-to-day necessities for them to thrive including food, medical treatments, walks, socializing, and provision on individual care to those with special needs. Alaqua also assists law enforcement and the state attorneys’ offices by working abuse, neglect, hoarding, and puppy mill cases at no charge to the agencies, and they offer disaster rescue and relief work to many organizations and communities. Alaqua has some beneficial community programs that include working with handicapped and special needs individuals, along with PTSD patients in their equine assisted therapy program. Enabling the public to have the knowledge to provide proper animal care is also important to them, so they help educate animal owners on issues such as disease prevention and spaying/ neutering. Being a voice for animals is an important overlay of Alaqua’s ongoing work, both regionally and nationally, and they continually advocate for legislation to protect all animals. One of Alaqua’s goals is to be a model shelter, and sanctuary so that others can learn from them. They work with people all across the country to provide consultations so that others can start a shelter and/or institute programs similar to Alaqua’s where they live. Learn more about Alaqua and how you can help, contribute, or help fulfill the needs of animals in another community at May 2021 | 65

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Interview with Laurie Hood, President Alaqua Animal Refuge We are now adding that human aspect to our mission and will expand our programs and services to allow people to benefit from the healing powers and unconditional love that animals provide. What is the mission of Alaqua?

Ironically enough, we are in the process of modifying our mission statement. Traditionally, our mission has been to provide shelter, safety, and second chances to animals in need. After 14 years of operation and healing thousands of abandoned and abused animals, we realized that the animals were also helping to provide healing to the humans that work with them. We are now adding that human aspect to our mission and will expand our programs and services to allow people to benefit from the healing powers and unconditional love that animals provide. Tell us about the location and the property where Alaqua is situated.

Currently, we are located on 10 acres in Freeport, Florida, but we will soon relocate our shelter and operations to 100 acres of donated land just down the road! It’s an amazing opportunity to become a destination for animal advocates across the country, while providing adoption, rescue, and educational opportunities to people who visit us. The one-of-a-kind facility and sanctuary will be the first of its kind in the United States. Half of our new facility is dedicated to native, wild animals that cannot be released as well. How is Alaqua funded?

Alaqua receives no federal or state funding, operating solely on funds that are raised through private donations and fundraising, including special events, planned giving, and grants. What impact has Alaqua had on the community in the last year?

I may be partial, but I don’t know what our community would do without us. We 66

have become the “go-to” organization to help animals in our area. Our impact is immeasurable, and the animals and people around us have become dependent on us. What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with the organization?

I have the absolute pleasure of watching creatures who have given up on life find healing here and find a new loving home. I get to see animals who come in with horrific injuries get treated by our amazing medical team and have a second chance at life, happiness, and most of all love. I also get to hear from volunteers, staff, and adopters as to how this amazing place has changed their lives. Rewarding is an understatement. To know how Alaqua has grown and is so loved by so many truly warms my heart. How is Alaqua staffed? Are there volunteer opportunities?

Alaqua has a full staff that ranges from animal care technicians, to veterinarians, to adoption coordinators, and executive teams. We also have almost 400 volunteers that donate their time to us and it takes every one of us to make an organization like Alaqua thrive. We have many volunteer opportunities available!

100 Point and Cult Wine Dinner one evening, followed by a Barn Jam for the general public the next. What is one thing you want readers to know about Alaqua?

So many people tell me that they would love to come out to visit, but they can’t stand to see homeless animals and the sadness of it. I want all people to know that Alaqua is the opposite of that, and in fact we have been called heaven on earth for animals by most! It truly is a happy environment and it has become evident that there is no place quite like it. How can someone become involved or help with Alaqua?

There are so many ways to help! Adopt your next pet from us. Volunteer your time here on property or at one of our events. Donate! You can donate money, a car or boat you no longer need, and many people have decided to leave us their estate to help with our operations.

Are there any upcoming events?

As for most non-profits, COVID-19 took a toll on us. We have not been able to host many signature fundraisers that we depend on over a year and half. We have finally scheduled our Fall event, Animoré—A Weekend Benefit for the Love of Animals for October 8 and 9, 2021. It is an amazing and epic weekend long event that consists of our intimate


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VIP Destin at BOTE Destin


Business After Hours at BOTE


photos & story by Zhalman Harris

OTE hosted Destin Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours on April 22 at their Destin location. Guests enjoyed delicious seafood from AJ’s Seafood & Oyster House, the new BOTE Beer collaboration with Destin Brewery, and music by Bryan Bludworth. Emily Friedlander of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center won a new BOTE Breeze Aero Classic. The Destin Chamber of Commerce is 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. We would love to work with you to make Destin the best community in which to live, work and play.

Suzy Hunt & Shane Moody

Jason & Desiree Hall

Tera & Brian Keister

David Butler & Skip Overdier May 2021 | 69

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VIP Destin at Destin Chamber Business After Hours at BOTE

Natasha Goodman. Teresa Hebert, Michelle Royce & Brian Beck

Jenny Larson, Maxwell Imm & Steven Gallagher

Marie DiGiovine & Deborah Bruce

Nicole Fazzone & Annie Wainman

Emily Friedlander, Amanda Reeves & Rachel Borgie

Stacy Byrd, Bri Snellgrove, Elizabeth Eulberg & Whitney Lee

Cindy Day, Tracie Martin, Rachel McCullough & Whitney Fuller

Christine Martinez & Debbie Eggers

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(850) 460-2933

1004 Hwy 98E • Destin, FL 32541



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VIP Destin at 3rd Planet Brewery

Hala with Imani Peleska, Johanna Kris & Jericka Eila

Sarianna Thomas & Hannah Green

Band & BBQ photos & story by Zhalman Harris


he lovely cool weather on April 24 made it a perfect day to enjoy some BBQ and good live music. The Band Duchess took to the stage at 3rd Planet Brewery in Niceville, for their Band & BBQ Event.. The free family event brought guests from far and near to enjoy the great sounding band, some craft beer from 3rd Planet and enjoy some finger licking good BBQ from the hands of The Smokin’ Crowley BBQ team.

Thomas Jones, Joel Wise & Glenn Crowley

Bill Burke & Scott Bruce

The Band Duchess May 2021 | 73

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VIP Destin at Band & BBQ

Tim & Sue McCool

Todd & Chris Wilkenson

Courtney & Tyler Outten

Greg Heiar & Heather Julseth 74


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For your Consideration, Donations, and Adoption

Road Dogg Rescue

Help homeless and abandoned animals find a new home.

PAWS Shelter

Animal rescue, adoptions and low-cost vet care. 850-243-1525

Alaqua Animal Refuge

No-kill refuge for abused and unwanted animals since 2007. (850) 880-6399

Panhandle Equine Rescue

Equine rescue and equine abuse investigation. 850-587-3565

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Dog Harmony

Offering humane education and training to keep dogs in their homes. 850-376-4190

4/29/21 9:52 AM

n Saving with Soul

Giving area shelter animals a second chance at life. 850-356-2647

Healing Paws for Warriors

Give hope and healing to Veterans and rescue dogs through empowering military heroes to return to civilian life with dignity and independence. 850-716-8198

Pawsitive Love Foundation

Providing Service Dogs to Children and Veterans. 850-420-2894


Finds forever homes for cats and kittens. 850-863-5756

Pet Welfare Adoption Center

Rescuing and rehoming cats and dogs for over 35 years. 850-678-5066

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge

The Rescued Rescuers

Rescuing Dachshunds and other small breeds. 850-533-1266

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Provides wildlife rescue, rehab and outreach. 850-684-1485

4/29/21 9:52 AM

LOCALE O Big Brothers Big Sisters receives $25,000 gift from Gulf Power Foundation As a longtime supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida (BBBSNWFL), the Gulf Power Foundation has donated $25,000 to support their local mentoring programs that serve over 550 children from Pensacola to Panama City.

Summer break is typically a time for children to relax, indulge in a little extra screen time, and play outside. However, all of this free time can lead to the summer slide, getting into trouble, regression in academic proficiency due to summer break, and experts warn it is hindering children’s progress when they head back to school. Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Yet, one in three will grow up without this critical asset; that’s more than 57,000 children in Northwest Florida. Gulf Power Foundation’s gift will help ensure all children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program from Pensacola to Panama City continue to receive the life-changing support from their mentors during the critical months when children are away from the structure of their school. BBBSNWFL strives to provide Bigs and Littles with fun and safe activities to keep them engaged and motivated during the summer months. “I’m so excited about this gift! With growing pressures on families in our community, the need for Big Brothers Big Sisters is even more urgent,” said BBBSNWFL President and CEO Paula Shell. “We want all children to grow up healthy, safe, and prepared. Thank you, Gulf 78

Power, for believing in us and helping us spread our message and further our reach here in Northwest Florida.” Rocky Bayou Country Club Celebrates New Putting Green with a Chamber Ribbon Cutting Rocky Bayou Country Club celebrated their new Putting Green with a Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting on April 9, 2021. Rolling hills, sprawling oaks and stately pines—Rocky Bayou Country Club features 115 acres of championship golf unique to Northwest Florida. RBCC offers 18 holes of challenging play with wide fairways, perfectly managed greens, and five spring fed lakes. They afford their members and guests a pace of play not found on any other area course. No crowds, no waiting for tee times, just the ideal recreational golf experience on the incomparable Emerald Coast.

“We’re delighted to finally open our new putting green here at Rocky Bayou Country Club,” said Dennis Barnett, President of RBCC Board of Directors. “We’ve worked hard to make this the best golf course on this side of the bridge, and the renovation to our practice facilities is the first of many great improvements we have planned for RBCC.” Local Country Musician Teams with Grammy-Winning Songwriters Local singer-songwriter, Jessie Ritter released her newest single “The Sand And The Sea” in April. The uplifting, beach vibe track was written with Grammy-winning writers Robin Rudy and Leslie Ellis. In the past, Rudy and Ellis have worked with names like Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Thomas Dolby, and Terry Clark. The song is available on all streaming platforms. An official single release celebration was held at The Village Door in The Village of Baytowne Wharf in April.

Back in March 2020, Ritter sat down with Rudy and Ellis for her last inperson writing session before the COVID 19 quarantine began. When asked about the feelings in the writing room, Ritter said, “I think the word “pandemic” had appeared in the news for the first time that day, and we were really scared. We didn’t want to write a sad song or a song about what might happen, we were looking for hope while on the brink of fear.” They came together to write a song about the healing power of the sunshine and water. Ritter found inspiration from her home on the Emerald Coast and the carefree spirit that the area inspires. Ritter’s music video for her song “Home” was featured on CMT and most recently broke into the Country Network’s Top 20 Countdown. On release day, Ritter was eight months pregnant with her first child. However, you’ll still see this new mom performing along the Emerald Coast, baby boy in tow! An inspiration for mothers pursuing their passions, she will continue releasing new music while enjoying the adventure of motherhood. Based in Nashville and Northwest Florida, the singer/songwriter plays a heartfelt brand of country-pop with a breezy, romantic feel and plenty of charm. A native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Ritter continues to tour heavily through the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions.


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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

Registered Investment Advisor offering customized guidance based on your entire financial position. Our goal and fiduciary responsibility is finding solutions aligned with your complex financial needs. Blanken Management is a Veteranowned Financial Advisor where your success is our obligation and privilege.

1500 N White Point Road, Niceville, FL 32578

Thank you for Voting Blanken Management Best Financial Advisor

WILLIAM EDWARD BLANKEN JR 850-660-1164 - Office 570-236-0076 Cell


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VIP Destin at Rhumcay Island Grille

Beach Clean Up Day

Lindsey Polk & Mae LeRoy

photos & story by Britt Clark


n April 1, the Destin Chamber Young Professionals convened at the Welcome to Destin sign to assist Trees on the Coast perform a beach clean-up from 4-6pm. The cleanup took place across the Destin bridge and was a very successful task for a good cause. As a reward for their efforts, members of YP Destin gathered at Rhumcay Island Grille where drink vouchers and snacks were provided. The beaches end up with so much trash from all of the traffic in the area. Good citizens like the YP members, along with Trees on the Coast, are vital in helping take on projects like this. YP Destin hopes that others will follow their example and volunteer to help keep our area beaches clean and safe for folks who visit them, and especially for the wildlife that live there. Kevin O’Rourke & Robert Cvetkovski

Justin Pennington, Sara Carreale & Rebekah Manley

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Anna, Chris & Jenni Weir

Sydney Thorne, Bryce Whitener & Bill Costa


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Dr. Devin Stephenson What is your hometown and how did you end up on the Emerald Coast? An Alabama native, I was born in Gadsden, AL raised in Jasper, AL. In November 2016, I accepted the offer to become Northwest Florida State College’s fourth president. My wife, Judy, and I are honored to to call the Emerald Coast home. Since moving here, our adult children, Jon and JuliAnne, have chosen to spend a lot more time visiting. We’re not sure if it’s really to see us or because of the beautiful beaches, great shopping, and unique local cuisine. What is your profession and what led you to choose it? My passion for leading and influencing people led me to a lifelong career in higher education administration and engaging in public speaking on topics such as leadership, organizational change, and professional/personal development. What are some of your favorite things about Destin? Before moving to Okaloosa County, I had never experienced an area with more vibrancy, camaraderie, and a true commitment to creating a go-to destination to live, work and play. Three words that best describe you. Innovative. Energetic. Leader. Favorite place for dining and entertainment? In the world’s luckiest fishing village, I love the fresh Gulfto-table cuisine – caught by local fishermen, prepared by local chefs, brought directly to our table. You can’t beat the dining experience on the Emerald Coast! Our favorite place for entertainment is located right on Northwest Florida State College’s Niceville campus, the Mattie Kelly Arts Center, where we can enjoy everything from Broadway productions to symphony concerts and student performances. What is one thing that you do not go a day without? I spend time each day in self-reflection, constantly assessing new opportunities and their impact on the greater community. Using a personally-developed “Look, Listen, Learn, Launch” leadership approach, I seek to systematically face challenges head-on and attempt to make the best decision that will create the best outcome for our college community. Finish this statement, I AM DESTIN because… My wife, Judy and I choose to be here - immersed in the fabric and fiber of the community. We are ambassadors for the Emerald Coast and are passionately committed to making it the best place to live. photo by Zhalman Harris

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