Now that Thanksgiving is officially over, the Christmas season is in full swing. On Dec. 8, the annual Destin Christmas parade will take place at 10 a.m.
This year, Dewey Destin executive chef Jim Shirah has the honor of being the parade grand marshal. When Interim Parks & Recreation Director Lisa Firth notified Shirah about his new title, he thought she was playing a prank on him.
“I thought she was joking at first,” Shirah said with a laugh. “She told me she was serious and then I started wondering if they were just desperate for someone.”
But it wasn't a joke and they weren't desperate.
“The grand marshal is someone who contributes to the community and way of life in Destin,” Firth said. “Jim helps out so much in the community and he always has a smile on his face.”
Born and raised in Destin, Shirah is a fifth generation “Destinite,” with his family being considered one of Destin’s earliest founders. After graduation from Fort Walton Beach High School, he went on to formally train in Biarritz, France, at the Hotelier de Biarritz as a young chef before finishing his internship in culinary arts training at The Serge Blanco in Hendaye, France.
Besides his duties at Dewy Destin’s, Shirah has been teaching week-long cooking and serving classes in the summer and holiday baking classes in the fall at the Destin Community Center for the past 10 years.
“He is just awesome with the kids and they love him,” Firth said.
Shirah said he enjoys teaching the kids and has watched some grow up as they come back to his classes year after year.
“It’s just a lot of fun and I’ve always been involved in activities at the community center, even as a kid,” he said.
He also volunteers his time to help out with Destin Open House events and the Founders Day Fish Fry.
“He didn’t have much of a choice,” Firth said. “I just told him ‘you’re a founder, come help me.’”
“I like to support my city and they support me,” Shirah said. “We take care of each other.”
As far as the parade goes, Shirah said he’s excited to take part in the city’s tradition.
"I have a giant, giant family and it’s a family tradition to go (to the Christmas parade),” he said. “Most of the time I’m working during it, but the entire staff runs down to see it. It’ll be a nice change of pace.”
Even though Shirah doesn’t yet know all of the details and duties he’ll have to perform as the grand marshal, his biggest problem is finding the appropriate outfit to fit this year's parade theme of “Christmas at the beach.”
“I’ll have to figure out at least two outfits, because you never know what the weather will be like,” he said. “Maybe I’ll just wear swim shorts with a nice Santa hat.”