After 2-year hiatus, 44th Destin Seafood Festival is 'bringing back the local vibe'

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
People enjoy the 2019 Destin Seafood Festival at HarborWalk Village. Both the 2020 and 2021 festivals were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but the event will return next month.

For the first time in three years, the 44th Destin Seafood Festival is returning to Destin harbor Oct. 7 to 9.

The festival, which will stretch along the harbor front from HarborWalk Village to Heron Harbor, is free to the public. The festival is Friday, Oct. 7, from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19, and in 2017, it was canceled because of Hurricane Nate.

2021 festival:Destin Seafood Festival canceled for second straight year because of COVID-19 pandemic

NWFL fishing:Captains say red snapper season was great, but maybe a bit too long for some

But this year, all systems are go.

"It's been two years; we need to have it. We're getting back in the groove," said Missy Schofield, treasurer for the seafood festival committee. We're trying to do a little bit different stuff … to help bring the local vibe back."

Call to Chef is new element of Destin Seafood Festival

One of those different things is the "Call to Chef," which will be a small festival inside the overall festival.

Call to Chef is a two-day event where local chefs will prepare a signature seafood dish for the attendees to sample. Each day is broken into various time slots for different food items.

On Oct. 8 and 9, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., chefs will serve up an appetizer, soup and salad, and then from 3 to 6 p.m., the chefs will serve an entrée and dessert.

Call to Chef is a ticketed event. The cost is $60 for one day and $100 for both days. Ticketholders will get a chance to vote on their favorites, and chefs can win up to $5,000.

"A lot of the feedback we've gotten in the past with the Destin Seafood Festival was people wanting to bring a local element back," said Cali Hlavac, festival committee member. "A lot of locals wanted local seafood instead of fried vendors. We are still having everything you are used to at the seafood festival, but Call to Chef brings our locals back in and gives you a chance to eat local seafood."

The Call to Chef area will be set up in the East Pass Marina parking lot next to the Boathouse Oyster Bar.

Closer look at the vendors and musical acts

As for vendors, the seafood festival already has about 60 signed and ready to go, including artists who hand-paint oyster shells, clothing boutiques, fishing companies, hand-painting artists, commercial vendors and someone who does octagon tables for the beach that hold drinks.

"We're kind of a big gamut across," Hlavac said.

A vendor prepares food during the 2019 Destin Seafood Festival. The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, but will return this year.

More from local restaurants:Chef Al Massa from Brotula's in Destin places in Great American Seafood Cook-off in Louisiana

There will also be a special Kids' Zone set up in the parking area near The Edge restaurant on the harbor.

"We're going to have a mingo toss contest for the kids as well as a casting event," Schofield said. A bounce house is also planned.

And it wouldn't be a Destin Seafood Festival without music.

There will be four stages set up along the harbor with live music playing throughout the three-day weekend. The four public stages will be at Harbor Tavern, Boathouse Oyster Bar, AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar Jumbotron and HarborWalk Village.

There will also be music inside the Call to Chef area, which is ticketed.

"The whole time the festival is going on … there will not be music happening," Schofield said.

Some of the artists lined up to play are Luke Langford Bank, Scratch 2020, Josh Buckley Band, TJ & Brad, DJ Boom, Black Eyed Blonde, Hor!zen, The High Aces, Will & Linda, Hunter & Tony, DJ Serpent, Duchess, Austin Jennings, Jones & Company, DJ Charles, Grape Drink, Jessie G, Chasin Jaymie, Tribe Zion, River Dan, Cat Rhodes & The Truth and Dueling Pianos.

"We've got a lot of good stuff planned and it's all coming together," Hlavac said.

"I can't wait to see it actually come together … since it's been a couple of years, a lot of people are excited to come and visit us again," Hlavac said, noting they are anticipating about 30,000 to 40,000 over the three-day weekend.

"I'm excited about it. We're bringing back the local vibe," Schofield said.

Festival history

People line up for food at the 2019 Destin Seafood Festival. The dates for the 2022 Destin festival are Oct. 7-9.

The Destin Seafood Festival was started in 1978 by the Destin Charter Boat Association Women's Auxiliary. While the festival has grown into its new home on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, the Destin Seafood Festival remains the primary fundraiser for the Destin Charter Boat Association, according to the festival website.

Formed in 1954, the Destin Charter Boat Association is a nonprofit organization whose primary function is advocacy for Fisheries Management. They also contribute to various community development projects and award a scholarship to the winner of the Miss Destin Pageant.