Honoring heroes on the harbor: Nominations sought for weekly patriotic party/fireworks show

Jessica Coker
United States Air Force 1st Lt. Nathaniel Meier was honored in 2011. In 2010, Meier saw a typical day at the beach turn into a rescue effort. The Kansas resident saw two people stuck in a rip current behind the Back Porch, and without thinking, grabbed his boogie board and jumped into the Gulf and pulled the distressed swimmers to safety. He never knew their names or where they were from.

On the heels of Memorial Day, HarborWalk Village kicks off its weekly Red, White & Blue Celebrations. Featuring fireworks and a local hero every Thursday, the Red, White & Blue Celebration draws in large crowds weekly.

Recognized for their heroics in all aspects of life — community, personal and professional — the weekly hero is nominated by their peers; either a family member, friend or co-worker can nominate the potential hero.

In addition to the recognition each hero receives, they also get a few prizes and perks.

"For every hero that is selected, that hero, the nominator and their friends and family will be provided with a VIP viewing area for the fireworks show," said Maggie Woods, the marketing and events manager for the Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village.

According to Woods, this week’s Red, White & Blue Celebration is going to be a special one, as country musician Chuck Wicks will be performing a free show after the event, but before the fireworks.

Making his first appearance in Destin two years ago with a performance at a HarborWalk Village Rock the Docks event, Wicks is back in Destin to record his latest song "Salt Life" on the beaches of Destin that helped inspire the song.

Running until Labor Day, the Red, White & Blue Celebration features live entertainment, children's activities, a World War II-era air show, and the honoring of the hero. The event wraps up each week with a fireworks show over the harbor.

The weekly patriotic party has become increasingly popular at HarborWalk Village due in large part to the large military presence in Okaloosa County.

Past heroes include Myra Fowler with the Emerald Coast Autism Society and local military member Ryan Hartman.

When asked about her experience in being named a hometown hero, Fowler told The Log that it meant a lot to her.

"I found out that I had won about a month before," said Fowler. "It was a really fun night in a beautiful setting, with some great prizes. It was an honor to be recognized."

Ryan Hartman, who had just returned from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, was also surprised when he found out that he had won the prestigious honor.

His wife, Darris, told The Log that she was not surprised at all that he was nominated and won. Darris told The Log that her husband is the definition of a hero.

"He came home after a year with all of these medals for saving a soldier’s life," said Darris.


If you would like to nominate a local hero, visit the HarborWalk Village website, Facebook.com/HarborWalkVillageDestin or email info@HarborWalk-Destin.com to fill out a nomination form. HarborWalk Village has recently expanded the nomination process to include video nominations. Visit HarborWalk's Facebook to upload a brief video explaining why the hero you're nominating is worthy of the title.