Beairds selected as grand marshals

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
Ken and Fran Beaird stand outside of their home in Destin on Wednesday. The longtime Destin residents have played big roles in the city, and were chosen to be the grand marshals of the 2016 Destin Christmas Parade. ANNIE BLANKS/THE LOG

Ken and Fran Beaird remember the very first Destin Christmas Parade.

The year was 1984, and the city of Destin had just been incorporated. Ken remembers it being “freezing cold,” much like the temperatures that are expected for the 32nd annual Christmas parade this Saturday.

“It wasn’t nearly as big as it is now,” said Fran of that first parade. “But everyone pitched in and we made it something nice. Instead of just a charter boat organization parade, it was a community parade, and it’s been that way ever since.”

As the chairwoman of the incorporation committee and first ever city clerk, Fran organized the first parade. This year, she will have a hand in the parade again, though not as an organizer — as its grand marshal, alongside her husband Ken.

The two were selected by the Destin Christmas Parade Committee to be the grand marshals of this year’s parade because of their decades of service to the city, according to committeewoman Helen Donaldson.

Ken, a former Air Force fighter pilot, has been the Destin Chamber of Commerce president, Destin Charter Boat Association president, National Charter Boat Association president, Destin United Methodist Church Sunday School president and, most notably, Destin mayor from 1996-2002.

“They were both very instrumental in getting the city going,” Donaldson said. “(Fran) worked even before the city became a city to make it happen. And Ken was the mayor, he’s been a boat captain and a big part of the community for a long time. … We’ve been doing our best to honor anybody that was part of the first 30 years of Destin.”

The Beairds first moved to Destin from Texas after Ken retired from the Air Force in 1979. The pair was charmed by Destin’s white sand beaches and emerald blue waters, and Fran was instrumental in organizing both the first parade and the first Destin Seafood Festival, as well as fighting for the preservation of the city’s “fishing village” persona and for its incorporation. Ken bought the Reveille charter boat and was its captain for 27 years in addition to the many leadership hats he has worn.

“Back then, Destin was this little sleepy fishing village and people said, ‘Ha, what are they going to do over there?’” Ken remembers. “And boy, did we show them.”

The 32nd annual Destin Christmas Parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. It will begin at the Old Time Pottery building and end at Stahlman Ave.