The 35th annual Destin Seafood Festival is right around the corner, and organizers say this year's festival is bigger than ever.
"The whole east end of the harbor has more stages, more arts and crafts vendors and more activities to enjoy," said Mike Eller, a festival organizer.
As one of the longest standing traditions in Destin, this year's festival takes place Oct. 4-6 and stretches 1.5 miles along the Destin harbor from the foot of the Destin bridge to Heron Harbor. The free event will feature a wide variety of fresh, local seafood, arts and crafts vendors, live music and kids' activities.
Based on feedback from last year's festival, Eller told The Log they are putting a greater emphasis on local seafood, so there will be a more local focus than in years past. Some of the local restaurants represented include AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar, Crab Island Cantina, the Fisherman's Wharf, Harry T's, Dewey Destin's, The Boathouse Oyster Bar, and Burrito Del Sol.
Also added to this year's festival are a wider variety of free kids' activities. The family friendly festival will feature three separate kids’ areas with activities and games for all ages.
The kids area at Heron Harbor will keep the youngsters entertained with inflatables and a rock climbing wall, as well as an interactive skim board and skateboard painting workshop presented by Meyer, where boards can be purchased and painted or just painted. This area is geared toward teens and preteens.
Capt. Davie the Pirate will make an appearance Saturday and Sunday, performing magic shows at the pirate village at Heron Harbor.
East Pass Marina will also have a kids’ area with pony rides, a petting zoo, inflatable's and other games geared toward the younger crowd.
The HarborWalk Village kids’ area has hamster balls, a rock climbing wall, and a zip line that carries riders directly over the festival crowd.
Always a crowd favorite, the annual Mingo Toss (for ages up to 11 years old) will be held at Royal Melvin Heritage Park, behind the city of Destin stage. Youngsters will be given awards and certificates before they run down the harbor to participate in a treasure hunt that follows the flying fish.
Both local and regional artists will be offering a varietyof jewelry, wood sculptures, ceramics, photography and large-scale art pieces.
"We have a lot of room to stretch on the east side of the festival, so you will see a majority of the big and elaborate pieces of art on that side," Eller said.
But you can't forget the music.
The festival has grown to six stages this year, all featuring a variety of live music ranging from rock to country and everything in between. Acts include Heritage, Seasons Ammons, Chris Alvarado, Jones and Company, and the Forrest Williams Band just to name a few.
As for the logistics, there will be three shuttle stops running throughout the festival — Heron Harbor, HarborWalk Village and Fisherman's Wharf. A free shuttle will be running from the side parking lot at Lively Cinema 10 in the Downtown Destin Shopping Center.
With the festival a week out, Eller said there are still opportunities available for those who want to be a volunteer. Interested persons can contact volunteer coordinator Lisa Firth at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are still slots available for local businesses or individuals to come on board as Power Partners for the Seafood Festival. For a $100 donation that will help cover the cost of the festival's power, Power Partners will have their names on signs throughout the festival grounds.
To learn more about the Destin Fishing Rodeo visit www.destinseafoodfestival.org.
As a rich Destin tradition, Eller told The Log he is ready to see the festival come to life.
"This is for the locals and visitors alike," he said. "We want to promote the beautiful harbor, the fishermen and the community. For us fishermen, this is a source of pride."