You just never know who you are going to see when you're not expecting to see anyone you know.

I decided to forgo all the excitement swirling around South Walton last weekend with the wine fest and MountainFilm and head east.

Years had passed since I last visited Apalachicola and the Florida Seafood Fest. The event has grown! There was so much to do and see that I had trouble fitting it all in, but I gave it my best shot.

The celebration began with a stop at Toucan's in Mexico Beach on the way in for an appetizer of raw oysters on the half shell. Great way to kick off the weekend.

The Blessing of the Fleet was Friday evening with only a handful of boats sailing up to be blessed. But since it was small, we were able to see and hear the blessing from our spot on the dock. Nice; especially the procession of clergy.

After enjoying the reception at our bed and breakfast, it was on to my favorite eatery: Boss Oyster. Oh, my. I scarfed down a dozen, baked and loaded up four different ways. I do love me some oysters.

The Festival's official parade started up the next morning at 10 a.m. It has tripled in size since my last visit. Bands, dancers, cars, beauty queens, and horses, with a healthy dash of folks running for office thrown in. As long as they put chocolate in my hands, I was happy to shake theirs and wish them well.

After the parade, we took the short walk downtown and perused some shops. One had a shelf lined with alligator heads that were for sale. One gator even came with a photo taken prior to his untimely demise.

Then, on to the seafood fest. The bounty of all kinds of seafood offered to those hungry, or not, was overwhelming. The choice was tough, but I went with the fried gator tail dipped in mustard. Good.

We finished up the gator just in time to watch two heats of folks claiming to be the fastest and best oyster shuckers around show us how it's done. Winning the second heat and coming in third overall was Grayton Beach's own Brandon Patrick of Hurricane Oyster Bar.

Following the shucking was the oyster eating contest. Now, it got interesting. These folks had to attempt to eat the most oysters in a 15-minute time frame and keep them down. Amazingly, we watched the winning female slowly and methodically plod through 12.5 dozen oysters, putting hot sauce on every one. Her male counterpart kept down 14 dozen. I do love me some oysters, but I think five or six dozen in 15 minutes might be my limit.

On my second trip to Boss Oyster, who should I encounter but Balder Saunders?  

During the adventure, side trips were taken to St. George Island (which has grown), Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Port St. Joe, and Crooked Island, of which Balder sings. While there, I saw two bald eagles — one male and one female — who entertained us with an air show. Possibly a nest nearby. That was an exciting sighting.

The weekend was a fun-filled off-the-beaten-path adventure I think I want to do again. And it was for others as well.

Karen Brommer, Gee Gee Chandler, Jackie Lynch, and Marlyn Deames are back from Ocean Springs, Miss., where they shopped at the Peter Anderson Festival of more than 350 venders and several local artists such as Beeb Benson and Mary Kay Samouce.

Paul and Bett Appel are back after spending the summer at their cottage in Lake Tomahawk, Wisc.

Sharon Thompson has returned from a business trip to Washington, D.C.

Jeff Ellis completed and finished his sixth full 140.6 Ironman last weekend at Florida Ironman 2012 in Panama City Beach.

Congratulations to Alexa Guarachi, daughter of Fernando Guarachi, director of tennis at Destin Tennis Club at Seascape in Miramar Beach. Alexa won a 14-team ITA Southern Regional Championship in both singles and doubles, qualifying her for both singles and doubles at the Indoor Intercollegiate Tennis Championships. The championships begin today at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., and is one of the most prestigious events in the nation for college, where only winners of singles and doubles of each of the 12 regions will play. There are only 32 players in singles and 16 teams in doubles. This is Alexa’s senior year at the University of Alabama.

Kudos to Lynn Nesmith and Jean Allsop for their 14-page spread of Sherry and Lyle Sandquist's home in the fall/winter issue of Cottage Style Magazine.

Sorry to lose Carol Lench as she moves to The Villages. Best wishes, Carol.

Get well wishes go out to Jim Radtke, Nancy Veldman, and Diane Parsonette.

Carol Rankin celebrated her birthday Oct. 29 with South of the Border appetizers hot flower soup and cumin crusted shrimp salad by cooking class guru Vicki McCain.

Wish a happy birthday today to Bill Forsythe, and Seaside founder Robert Davis.

Tomorrow to Mary Lou Springstead, and artist Cara Roy.

Monday to bird lady Pauline Sutcliffe.

Tuesday to Wendy Mignot, Frith O’Brien, and Kyle Ogle.

Wednesday to artist Beeb Benson.

Thursday to Lynn Abbit, and Will Barber.

And Friday to artist Susan Alfieri, Susan Lovelace, and Carol Gagliardi.

Deborah Wheeler is the arts and entertainment reporter for The Walton Sun. She may be reached at 654-8443, 687-1239, or email Follow her on Twitter @WaltonSunDeb. Party Line appears weekly in The Sun.