SANTA ROSA BEACH — Tourist Development Council officials are working to keep Walton County's economy booming during the offseason.

To help draw people to the Emerald Coast when tourism drops, the TDC offers a program to fund marketing for local events during the shoulder seasons.

According to Kelli Carter, marketing manager for the TDC, offseason tourism is increasing faster than the commonly busy summer months.

"If you look back from when we started (the program) and growing the shoulder season, the shoulder season has grown 2-to-1, outpacing the normal season," she said.

Carter added that the current program is a mixture of past programs. In 2011, the TDC formed the all encompassing sponsorship program to help popularize the area and boost the South Walton brand.

"More events not only means there's more for locals to do, it also means that there's going to be more jobs for locals as well," said David Demarest, the TDC's director of communications, on the importance of off-season events.

The TDC sponsored 22 functions last year. Application periods typically run for about four weeks starting toward the end of March or beginning of April.

Proposals are then ranked on a point scale, with longer and more popular events ranking higher.

Single-day events can receive up to $10,000, and multi-day activities are eligible for up to $20,000. All contributed TDC money must be spent on advertising. 

Sponsorships, as well as all TDC budgeting, are funded by the bed tax levied on short-term rentals.

"That means that no locals are paying for any of these events," Demarest said.

He hoped that as more and more people visit South Walton during shoulder seasons, they'll find the area is more than just a summertime destination.

He added that off-season events are great incentives to bring people to the Gulf Coast.

"As this program develops and grows, I think what you'll see are more events that are successful during times of the year where you might of otherwise just seen closed doors, closed restaurants and people unable to find jobs," Demarest said.

"The events sponsorship program is a win-win for everybody."