Living the brand: TDC names hospitality award winner, artist of the year

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM.

The man who won the TDC’s top hospitality award remembers when there were more cows on the beach than tourists.

An emotional Malcolm Patterson accepted the Van Ness Butler, Jr., Hospitality Award Tuesday at the Walton County Tourist Development Council's 27th annual meeting.

The award was established in 2003 by the TDC to honor the legacy and service to the community exemplified by Van Ness Butler, Jr., whose family acquired land here in 1922.

"Their family defined Grayton Beach ," said the TDC's Director of Marketing and Communications Jon Ervin.

Butler also served as the first chair of the TDC and as interim director for two years. He continued to serve on various committees for many years.

Ervin introduced Patterson and his accomplishments by saying Patterson accepted the position of the Walton County TDC's first executive director in 1988 and grew the county's bed tax revenue from $150,000 to $2 million. He also was a champion for establishing public beach accesses and beach cleaning. He negotiated a lease with the state for two acres on which to build the current information center, created a website, promoted the arts festival that is now known as ArtsQuest, helped establish the Northwest Florida Tourism Council, and doubled awareness of this area as a destination and put Northwest Florida on the map.

When Patterson took the podium he described a South Walton that few remember or know existed. His family owned cattle that roamed freely about, even on the beach. He rode a horse to round up the cattle, and remembers riding on the beach from Destin all the way to Inlet Beach when the only contrast between the white sand was cow patties.

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