With the Fourth of July holiday upon us, local retailers and restaurants are looking forward to an influx in business as thousands of visitors flood Destin.
"It's a huge week for us," said Bob Perry, general manager of Destin Commons, which has more than 75 stores, kiosks and restaurants to choose from. "Most visitors who come vacation for a week will come to Destin Commons three times, on average, during their visit."
While the weather outlook for the region shows possible showers and thunderstorms in the forecast, there should be no shortage of visitors sinking their toes into the sugar white beaches, strolling the aisles of local retailers and pulling their chairs up at any number of local restaurants.
And the influx of visitors is a welcomed sight, Mayor Sam Seevers told The Log.
"For many of the local businesses and residents, they pretty much have the one-hundred days of summer to pad their bank accounts ahead of the shoulder season," she said, adding that the Fourth of July holiday is the "biggest by far" in Destin.
During the summer season, Seevers said the city's population swells and anywhere between 65,000-75,000 people are in Destin on any given day.
As the roads in Destin become more congested, Seevers said it's easy to complain about the traffic, but after experiencing the BP oil spill in the summer of 2010, the wait behind the wheel is welcome.
"That was one of the saddest sights, driving down the highway and seeing the parking lots empty at many of our local restaurants," she said. "The strain on our infrastructure is only for a short period of time, and we have to be thankful for what we have."
The business boom for the city may be particularly advantageous this year because Independence Day falls in the middle of the week.
Given the increase in cars on the roadways, there is also an increase in traffic-related incidents, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
Pubic Information Officer Michele Nicholson told The Log that patience is the name of the game when it comes to navigating Destin's busy roadways.
"Usually summer holidays are pretty intense in Destin," Nicholson said. "We urge people to take their time and be patient while on the roads; it's going to be congested."
Nicholson told The Log that during a 48-hour period from July 3-5 last year there were 26 vehicle accidents in Destin alone, and while most of them were not serious, there were incidents of road rage and intoxicated drivers. She said one man got out of his car and threatened someone with a wrench.
The sheriff’'s office also sees an increase in the number of incidents relating to people who are driving under the influence or boating under the influence.
"We have a zero tolerance policy for DUI," Nicholson said, adding that deputies will be on the lookout for impaired drivers and boaters on the roadways and waterways. "Just think about your alcohol consumption. People just need to approach the holiday safely."
Other "no, no's" include jumping from the Marler Bridge, which Nicholson said is highly dangerous. Fireworks are also largely banned. The rule of thumb for fireworks in Florida is that "if it lifts off, flies, or explodes it's against the law."
Nicholson said the sheriff's office urges visitors to keep their cars locked, keep an eye on valuables, such as cell phones when on the beaches, and keep constant sight of small children who can easily wander off.
"The holidays and summer season are always crazy for the sheriff's department," she said.