COLUMN: Celebrating old and new fall traditions

Susan Moody, Emerald Coast Insider

Saturday was a perfect fall day along the Emerald Coast. And while many residents were waiting for the Alabama–LSU football game that evening, the 14th Annual Destin Pinfish Classic was well attended.

Quite possibly Alex’s favorite event of the year, the Pinfish Classic lets young anglers get in on the action and cast their lines in hopes of seeing their name atop the leaderboard. Last year, we failed to catch a single fish, but this year, both Alex and Harper managed to grab a couple each.

Every fish is dutifully weighed and recorded by a cadre of city volunteers and then released back in the water. The kids try to catch as many fish as they can during the hour-long session, and prizes are awarded for the biggest and smallest fish in a number of age groups.

Harper, who provided a running commentary of the day’s events, was disappointed she didn’t win a prize, but she was pleased to receive a new fishing rod at the end of the day. Hosted by the City of Destin’s Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, The Pinfish Classic is another way the city of Destin quietly encourages kids and their families to connect with the history and the heritage of the harbor and the fishing fleet.

The humble pinfish may not top the leaderboard during the month of October, but it reigned supreme on Saturday.

Just down the docks on Sunday, Harbor Docks Charities once again sponsored the Annual Take A Kid Fishing Event. More than 300 kids had the opportunity to spend the morning fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and the Choctawhatchee Bay. Teachers, off duty firefighters and police from Destin and Fort Walton Beach served as chaperones and a number of charter boat captains and mates lent their expertise so all the kids could have a fantastic day on the water.

Together, the Pinfish Tournament and Take A Kid Fishing Day provide great ways to celebrate Destin fishing.

On Thursday, Alex, Harper and I had a sneak peek at The Village of Baytowne Wharf ice skating rink. Admittedly, it was a little weird to be lacing up skates while some of the kids were still in shorts. I definitely preferred it, however, to the bundles and bundles of clothes I had to wear skating in New England as a child.

Located in the Events Plaza at Sandestin’s Baytowne Wharf, the skating rink is a great way to get your kids unplugged and moving for a while. If you are worried that your little one might be overwhelmed by the Michelle Kwans and Wayne Gretzkys on the ice, take note that the first hour of each day is dedicated “kids time,” so they can practice without feeling rushed or pressured by faster skaters.

If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll soon find their groove and be landing triple toe loops. Alex is even asking for a hockey stick for Christmas.

During the month of November, skaters can bring two non-perishable food items and receive a free skate rental (worth $2). The food will be donated to Harvest House. In December, the rink is teaming up with Toys For Tots, and visitors can donate one new, unwrapped toy in exchange for a buy one get one free 90-minute skating session.

Kids along the Emerald Coast have a long Thanksgiving and Christmas Break on the horizon, so I’d encourage you to check out the skating rink over the holidays. If you can have some outdoor fun while helping local families have a brighter holiday season, what are you waiting for?

For the cost of a movie, your Florida kids can have a real “winter experience.” We thoroughly enjoyed our sneak peek adventure, and plan on returning later this winter. While I’m not hoping for a cold snap, it might be nice to grab a hot chocolate and not an iced tea after we skate.

Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at