The bands are scheduled and roughly 100 craft and food vendors are lined up and ready to go for the 41st annual Destin Seafood Festival scheduled for Oct. 4-6 along the harbor boardwalk in Destin.
“The countdown is on,” said Cayse Collins, executive director for this year’s festival. “We’ve got some really cool stuff coming.”
Collins named such things as hand-carved wooden art, handmade jewelry to blown glass and tables made out of old surf boards.
“We will have a lot of things to do with the fishing industry, which I think will be a great fit,” said Collins, noting the Destin Fishing Rodeo will be taking place at the same time on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.
There will be vendors with fishing rods, fish art and jewelry made from real shark teeth.
“We have a man coming out of South Florida that invented a garbage can for your boat,” she said.
The vendors for this year’s festival are coming from all over the United States.
One of the jewelry artisans is coming from Washington state.
“They have been traveling all summer and we are their last stop before they head back,” Collins said.
In addition to the out-of-state artists, “we have quite a few that are local or regional,” she said. “It’s really neat to talk to all the vendors and hear their story of how they come up with their products.”
And what’s a seafood festival without seafood?
Dewey Destin’s on the Harbor will be doing an “old school” fish fry.
“That’s actually how the seafood festival started … fishermen would get together and do a very informal fish fry and then it turned into this big event,” Collins said.
There will also be traditional festival fare, plus food from the local restaurants along the harbor such as Jackacuda’s, Margaritaville, AJ’s and Brotula’s.
“All our partner properties along the harbor are participating with seafood, so it’s not just that festival fare,” she said.
As for music, there will be plenty.
“We just got everything situated this week. And we have some great regional and local artists from Pensacola to Tallahassee,” she said.
There will be three main stages of live music, including the stage at HarborWalk Village and two stages at AJ’s, the Jumbotron stage and the Bimini stage.
Among the list of performers are Déjà vu Band, I’magene, The Good Lookings, Luke Langford Band, Will & Linda, Jones & Company and Heritage to name a few.
Lap and pedal steel guitar player AJ Ghent will play two sets on Saturday on the Jumbotron Stage at AJ’s. He is a third-generation singer-songwriter, producer and guitar player.
“There is pretty much music every hour the festival is open,” Collins said.
Music will go from 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday and then 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday.
And not to forget about the children, there will be a “kiddie area” with a petting zoo and pony rides. This area will be located near East Pass Marina, just west of the Boathouse.
The children’s area will strictly be non-smoking, Collins said, noting one of the sponsors of this year’s event is Tobacco Free Florida.
With the festival spread across the waterfront, where do people park?
“Parking is always a challenge,” Collins said.
There are city lots that are pay-to-park — one at Marler Street and another at the Destin Community Center.
“The festival does not charge to park. The properties along the harbor that charge … we do not get that money,” she said.
The only exception is the lot at Heron Harbor, they donate the money back to the festival.
As for the parking lot across from AJ’s, the proceeds go to the Destin History and Fishing Museum.
If you can't get into those lots, there is another option.
“We will have transportation services provided this year coming from the west and the east,” Collins said.
Emerald Coast Rider and the Okaloosa County transit system will be transporting folks for a very “minimal fee” to and from the festival.
On the west side, they will be picking up at the Emerald Coast Conference Center and on the east side at Bealls and Target.
Buses will run from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.