MIRAMAR BEACH — The new year bells have barely finished tolling and the Walton County Snowbirds club is already in full swing at Faith Assembly Church.
Wednesday, a steady stream of winter visitors mingled, hugged and registered for activities at what club organizers call "the big registration."
President Karen Moosekian of Michigan said she hopes to see a good turnout this year, but is a bit doubtful that they will see the same numbers as last year.
“Last year we had almost 1,700 members,” Mossekian said. “In the past years there were 2,200, but I think that we lost a lot of people who are Canadian because of the exchange rate. And it’s kind of high right now ($1 U.S. costs $1.36 Canadian) so I kind of expect that we will lose more Canadians this year also. If we get 1,800 that would be really full for us.”
Moosekian said the biggest draw for people to join the Walton County Snowbirds is the activities, which unlike other local snowbird clubs are more instructive than social.
“We have more discussion groups and computer classes, and there’s a creative writing group, so I think we have a little bit more of that kind of thing,” she said.
This year, the snowbird club has more than 30 activities to choose from, from mahjong and poker to water aerobics and yoga. Past co-presidents Dave Tudman and Jane Chadderdon said the activities drew them to the club.
"Walton County had a good golfing program, and still does, so we joined so we could play golf, and then we discovered all of the rest of the things that the Walton club does," Tudman said. "We found a home here simply because of all of the activities that keep people young.”
As for Chadderdon, she said the singles group is her main focus when she vacations in South Walton each year.
“I’ve been coming for 14 years and the first few years I didn’t really do much,” she said. “Then I joined the singles group as a way to meet other people and get involved. The singles group is probably the most active group in this club. They have happy hours. They do some tours. It’s not a match-making group, but it’s a chance to be able to do something with somebody.”
This year Walton County Snowbirds big registration day registered 487 snowbirds, bringing the total to 715 so far this year. But Moosekian said it's more about the friendships than the numbers.
“What’s really nice about this is that people haven’t seen each other since last season, so they come in and hug and it makes me feel good to see them reunite,” she said.