‘I want this to be my baby’: New Chairman named for 36 Annual Destin Seafood Festival

Savannah Chastain
Jami Jones, new Chairman of the Destin Seafood Festival shared her favorite festival food fare saying, “Of course the funnel cakes, I like the jambalaya, the gumbo and the lottery booth.”

Jami Jones is the new face of the Destin Seafood Festival. Named the Chairman for the 36 Annual Destin Seafood Festival, Jones said this is a position she feels ready for.

“I’m excited about the challenge, I’m not afraid at all, I’m jazzed, I’m pumped,” Jones said.

As last year’s festival was canceled, due to a hurricane watch, Jones told The Log that she knows 2014 will be an important year for Destin.

“This year is a big deal because it got weathered out last year,” said Jones. “Everybody is extra excited about the Seafood Festival and all the yummy seafood. You don’t miss it ‘til you don’t have it.’”

Jones came from a career as a florist, caterer and event planner, and said that her experience in that field, coupled with her 13 years in the Destin Charter Boat business, has well equipped her for the task of heading up the Seafood Festival.

“I’m not naïve, I know the challenge of it,” Jones explained. “I’ve always volunteered for the Seafood Festival. I knew this would be a huge task so I didn’t take it lightly, but I also have a huge staff, and tons of volunteers, who are the real legs and wheels of this operation.”

Jones moved to Destin in 2001 from Kansas City, Missouri and immediately began working on the docks.

“I moved here to literally run an adventure charter service, and I’m still doing that,” Jones said. “It was challenging being new to the fishing business, but I met my husband two weeks after moving here, and he’s a big part of me staying.”

Jones’ husband, Casey Jones, will also take a vital role in this year’s festival planning, as Jones said, “Casey is helping me with sponsorships, and screening vendors, and is really working side-by-side with me on everything.”

In 2004, the couple opened their charter business, Destin Charter Service, which operates two charter boats, The Destin Princess and The Destiny, and a dolphin cruise, Captain Nemo. Today, the couple continues the charter business and the Adventure Charter Service at East Pass Marina.

An active member of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce, Jones told The Log that she will use her roles to really unify Destin in the Seafood Festival.

“I’m kind of a bridge,” Jones explained, “because on the chamber side, I know property owners, and on the charter side, I know the fishermen.”

 In the past few years, the Seafood Festival has truly become a community event, as former Chairmen, Mike and Kathy Eller changed the festival by eliminating the entrance fee and incorporating the true Destin feel of the docks. Jones hopes to use her two roles to continue that positive momentum.

“I’m gonna grab the torch and run with it, they took down the fences, made it a no-charge festival, and brought it to the harbor, and I’m just implementing what they’ve already done,” she said.

 Casey, a native of Destin, agreed as he said, “Growing up here, and seeing the different formats of the Seafood Festival, and now seeing the way it is encompassing the harbor, it’s brought the community back to where it needs to be. Destin was formed on fishing, by fishing, and it brings the attention back to that.”

This year the Seafood Festival will span a full half-mile, stretching from the Emerald Grande to Heron Harbor, making it Destin’s largest Seafood Festival to date.

“My vision is that as the boardwalk grows, we want the festival to grow with it,” Jones said. “All it can do is grow. I want to work to enrich the festival and keep it true to the area which will continue to bring people to Destin.”

“One of the most important things that is this is by the locals, for the public to get a taste of what our history, our heritage is here in Destin,” Casey added.

The three-day festival is scheduled for October 3-5, and will feature three main music stages, a plethora of family and kids activities, and of course the main event, delicious seafood vendors.   

 “It’s a family environment, a real hometown community kind of feel,” said Jones. “The Seafood Festival gives people a sampling of why they should come back, and kicks off the fishing rodeo.”

Looking to the future, Jones says she hopes to become a staple to the Destin Seafood Festival.

“I plan on doing this long-term,” she said. “I’m looking 10 years down the road, and I want this to be my baby. As Helen (Donaldson) is to the Fishing Rodeo, so Jami wants to be for the Seafood Festival.”

ARTISTS NEEDED

The call is out for artists to design the iconic poster artwork for the 36th Annual Destin Seafood Festival.

“I’m very excited for the call to artists because that is the art for the whole feel and pulse of the festival,” said Jones. “It sets the mood and gets everyone amped for the festival.”

This year’s submissions are due June 2. Applications can be found at www.destinseafoodfestival.org/documents/2014artistapplication.pdf