Home grown by home cooking: Organizers remember 'pure survival' of first Destin Seafood Festival

Seafood Festival

Janie Browning (at left) and Marcia Green, two the original organizers of the Destin Seafood Festival, recreate a classic photo the event’s first years. The original photo from 1979 depicted Browning (at right) with Linda Patterson.

Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 02:11 PM.

Destin, 1979 — Members of the Destin Charter Boat Association Auxiliary, all wives of fishing captains, were looking for a way to bring people to Destin and onto their husbands’ boats after Labor Day and the annual exodus of tourists.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo had been bringing anglers to Destin for 30 years. So members of the auxiliary envisioned an event centered around the Emerald Coast’s best food, arts, crafts and family-friendly live entertainment right in the midst of the annual fishing tournament. Thus, the Destin Seafood Festival was born.

Led by Janie Browning, the festival’s first chairman, the ladies set out getting local chefs and home-cooks on board, as well as artists to sell their work and musicians to provide entertainment for the event. They quickly learned gathering vendors for a completely unknown event isn’t easy.

“You see a lot of vendors go on the festival circuit now. Not then. It was all Destin locals,” Browning told The Log. “Now vendors come looking for you. That was not the case with the first Seafood Festival.”

The tide quickly turned, though. Once word got out around Destin, there was no shortage of vendors signing up to be a part of the festival. By the day of the festival, there were 58 in all.

Marcia Green, an auxiliary member, said the group did a lot of praying in the final days leading to the festival. 

“We were thrilled, but the week before the festival was pure survival. It was so much more than we expected,” Green told The Log.

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