Organizers say Seafood Fest brought in 70,000 (PHOTOS)

Matt Algarin
Organizers at HarborWalk Village say the Seafood Fest brought in more than 70,000 people in it’s three day run. That’s 20,000 more than last year.

After three days of seafood, live music and massive crowds, the 34th annual Seafood Festival has come to a close.

“All of the property and everyone put their best foot forward for the city of Destin and the festival,” said Mike Eller, co-chairman of the Destin Charter Boat Association, which was tasked with putting the festival together.

Organizers say this year’s festival drew quite a crowd, with an estimated 70,000 people strolling along Destin harbor Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as the new boardwalk allowed the festival to stretch from HarborWalk Village on the west to The Boathouse Oyster Bar and Dockside on the east.

With everything from funnel cakes and chicken on a stick, to local seafood and top-notch entertainment, Eller told The Log that everyone he has spoken to so far had a great time, especially the children.

“We really wanted to put a focus on having a kids area that was not only fun, but affordable,” he said of the designated area on the Heron Harbor property.

While the festival itself might be over, there is still plenty of work to be wrapped up by festival organizers. Eller said they are currently putting the final touches on paperwork and finances.

“My front yard looks like the seafood festival,” he said with a chuckle.

With the festival’s linear format showcasing the harbor, Eller told The Log that he couldn’t say enough about the new boardwalk and cooperation amongst harbor property owners that showed a true sense of “community.” He said all but one property owner “got on board” for the festival.

“This festival has been carried by our local business community for more than 30 years,” Eller said. “They are the ones that do all of the hard work, and we couldn’t do this without them.”

Looking back at the festival, Jamie Hall, marketing director for HarborWalk Village, told The Log that the 34th annual Seafood Festival might have been the best one yet.

“This is just the greatest kickoff to the Fishing Rodeo that you could have,” she said.

Festival organizers will meet with property owners, the city of Destin and other stakeholders next week to conduct a post-mortem on this year’s festival, before they start preparing for next year.

“We’ll have a chance to see how everyone felt about the festival, if there is anything we should change, or what we can do better next year,” Eller said. “At the end of the day, our goal is to make this festival the best it can be, and this well help us do that.”

For Mayor Sam Seevers, who has helped head up the festival in year’s past, seeing what the Charter Boat Association did this year was incredible.

“The seafood festival was almost not going happen, but with the leadership of Capt. Mike Eller and his family, and the countless number of volunteers, they were able to bring smiles to the faces of many, many people,” she said. “They allowed us to have a festival that dates back 34 years in tradition.”