They're back and they're already busy making a difference in these communities they call home every winter. From Navarre to South Walton, snowbirds are coming to town, settling into their winter quarters and getting involved.
Hundreds are already here and they will continue to arrive for days and weeks to come.
They travel from as far away as Canada, Minnesota and the East Coast, with most migrating from the Midwestern states. Some arrive as early as Thanksgiving and stay long enough to share our beautiful beaches with visitors on the opposite end of the spectrum – high school and college students on spring break.
But unlike those younger visitors, our older guests do more than have fun when they're here. They donate time and money to countless organizations, treating the Emerald Coast as a second home and investing in its welfare. They serve hot meals to the homeless, work in local food pantries, host fundraisers for area organizations and generally brighten our world.
But they do something else while we're here, something full-time residents often forget to do. They have fun.
They don't complain about the cold or the rain or the winter beach – they embrace it. No matter how cold it gets here, it's always colder back in the places they call home. They play golf and shuffleboard, shop, walk the beaches, enjoy area restaurants and savor the fellowship provided by several large snowbird clubs.
They celebrate Northwest Florida and remind us to do the same.
Of course, their presence also checks a vital economic box, boosting the local population during an otherwise quiet season. Although those dollars ripple through the community, the most powerful impact of our winter guests can't be tallied in dollars and cents.
Yes, the roads will be a little more crowded for a few months. And yes, some snowbirds will drive slower than our fleet-footed locals, rushing to and fro seven days a week.
But it's certain they'll give far more than they take and we could only hope that all of our visitors would behave as well as our winter guests!