The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation launched its 25th anniversary season with a special event Jan. 22 in the HarborView Room at Emerald Grande in Destin.

I was honored to be invited to the beginning of the year-long celebration for the charitable organization that "was founded in 1995 to be Northwest Florida’s champion of cultural arts and arts education for all," as a media release succinctly and accurately puts it.

They honored outstanding board members and volunteers with special awards. They also recognized retiring board members and current ones. Outgoing board chairman Heather Ruiz passed the gavel to new chairman Kevin Bowyer.

"I’m very excited and honored to serve MKAF as chairman of the board in its 25th year," Bowyer said. "We have an aggressive agenda planned and we look forward to welcoming everyone to one or more of the many events ... .

"As a business owner and leader in Destin and South Walton, I understand the importance of arts to the business community. Cultural opportunities play a vital role in making our region a great place to live, work and play; and MKAF is leading the charge in that endeavor."

I live-streamed most of the presentation, and the two videos are available on the Northwest Florida Daily News Facebook page if you’d like to view them. (I stopped and restarted the feed during a video shown at the event.)

Tracy Louthain, 25th anniversary committee chair, unveiled a special MKAF 25th anniversary logo, a new website and announced the 2020 calendar of events.

The events include reviving the Arts Guild luncheon, a Vintij Wine Dinner Series, a Florida Aioli Dinner, the spring and fall Concerts in the Village series, the 25th Annual Festival of the Arts, the 8th Annual Ruth’s Chris Wine Walkabout and the 25th Sounds of the Season concert featuring Charles Billingsley.

As you can see, it’s a year jam packed with musical, culinary and artistic celebrations. There’s also Mattie Kelly Day and a new Mattie Kelly Spirit Award. Nominations are being accepted now. Deadline is Feb. 21.

And while all of those events are going on, MKAF will continue its Community Outreach & Arts Education programs as well. Those include Arts for All Abilities, K-12 programs, summer camps ("Nature Rocks!" with E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center), and Warrior Arts (therapeutic benefits for active-duty and veteran military service members).

More than 300 volunteers support the foundation annually, the release said, and more are always welcome.

You can get more details about how to become a member, a volunteer or both at, on Facebook and Instagram @mattiekellyartsfoundation, email or call 850-650-2226.

Of course, we also will publish ongoing details of various activities in Entertainer.

I spent a few minutes at the launch speaking with Marcia Hull, CEO of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, which is always a pleasure. For me, Marcia and MKAF are inseparable.

Marcia radiates enthusiasm and positivity. She lights up any space she occupies, and people gravitate toward her. She’s kind, generous, a blessing to all who know her to be sure, including me.

What’s more, she’s a blessing to the thousands, dare I say millions, of people who don’t know her but whom have benefited from her leadership of MKAF.

She and I have planned "to do lunch" for more than 20 years. She’s also repeatedly invited me to the Sounds of the Season concert. This 25th anniversary year feels like the time to finally make both of those things happen.