40 years of the Destin Seafood Festival

Savannah Vasquez

The Destin Seafood Festival is celebrating 40 years of spreading the love of Gulf seafood as well as local and regional arts and entertainment on the Destin harbor.

The three-day festival is scheduled to take place over the weekend of October 5-7 and span almost 2 miles from HarborWalk Village east along the Destin Boardwalk.

Although the festival falls in the middle of hurricane season and was weathered out last year, festival planners are answering back this year with an attitude of resilience.

“In 40 years, as far as I know it’s only been canceled twice,” said Destin Seafood Festival Chairman Jami Jones. “This year, being the 40th year, the big thing is we have brought on more food, more types of food and more local businesses.”

The 2018 entertainment line-up is impressive. With 35 live music and entertainment acts and more then 300 vendors, the festival is primed for a successful year.

Art vendor Matt Moore said this will be the second festival he's participated in, but his first Destin Seafood Festival. Moore offers swirling body art with his company Diptek. At his last festival, he said, the response was amazing.

“It’s always the same thing. People sit there with their jaw on the floor. They want to know how this works,” Moore said.

When asked what he is most looking forward to, Moore said, “Just showing everybody what we’ve got going on, make people colorful and blow some minds.”

As for bands, there will be five stages at the festival, including one inside AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, upstairs overlooking the harbor — the Bimini Stage. Playing at prime time, from noon to 4 p.m. on the Bimini Stage will be Will & Linda, a duo who actually moved to the area with eyes set on playing that stage.

“We’ve been married and performing together for just over 11 years,” said Will Pleasants, the Will half of the duo. “We migrated from Jackson, Mississippi, four years ago with the intention of playing music for a living at the beach.”

Pleasants explained he and his wife, Linda, honeymooned in Destin and have good memories of listening to local band Jones & Co. at AJ’s. He said his wife secretly wished they would someday come back and grace the same stage, and now they are one of the house bands during the tourist season.

“We play acoustic covers of classic rock and soul known as 'yacht rock,'” Pleasants said of the band’s musical style. “An eclectic mix of outlaw country, reggae — the things you might hear on a cruise ship or the Bahamas. Good songs played at their primal approach.”

Speaking of Jones and Co., the band has become the equivalent of a Destin house band, and lead singer Cheryl Jones says the band is overjoyed to be performing in the Destin Seafood Festival this year.

"It means everything to be a part of the Destin Seafood Festival this year, especially since Jones and Co. will be celebrating our 29th year in Destin while the Destin Seafood Festival celebrates 40 years," said Jones.

Jones added that the band started playing in Destin in 1989 and first performed at the festival more than 20 years ago.

"I can only imagine my hairstyle, back then," Jones said. Still, back in the day, folks would make it a point to come see us, dance, hang out, hug — Ah, such good memories, such good times."

Lighting up the night for the grand finale on Saturday will be fire-spinning act Just Add Fire performed by local talent Autumn Lyfe Ussery. Ussery has been performing at HarborWalk Village for several years and said she is excited to be returning to the seafood festival.

“I’ve been fortunate enough for them to bring me back, so this will be my fifth year at the Destin Seafood Festival,” she said. “If you haven’t ever seen it, it’s a big light show that tells a great story with great music attached to it.”

As for the seafood portion of the Destin Seafood Festival, Chairman Jones, confirmed there will be more food options to choose from then ever before.

“It’s really a food event,” she said. “It’s a seafood festival, but we also have local and regional food, carnival food, Asian cuisine, barbecue — a variety of offerings."


The Destin Seafood Festival kicks off 4-10 p.m. Oct. 5 and continues 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 6, wrapping up 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 7. Admission is free for the festival, but parking varies, depending on where you choose to park. Full parking and shuttle maps and more information are available online at www.destinseafoodfestival.com.

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