Celebrating the holidays in Destin

Mary Pierce
Mary Pierce

The majority of Destin snowbirds remain in their northern nests until after the holidays, but more than 350 have already left children, grandchildren, family and friends to savor the beauty and warmth of the local environment. However, that doesn’t mean that they forfeit holiday celebrations. On the contrary, many have found new and creative ways to celebrate. The following are great illustrations.

Jan Lanaville from Madison, Wisconsin, will miss celebrating with her grandchildren this year, but rather than feel sorry for herself, the natural-born organizer and her snowbird accomplice, Deb Short, have decided to gather other detached Majestic Sun residing snowbirds for a Christmas potluck feast. They expect about two dozen to attend and will enjoy such delights as turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole and multiple desserts.

Mary and Jim Granberg of Bismarck, North Dakota, celebrated Christmas at Thanksgiving with family before heading south to Destin. They will be visited by additional family members in February, so they thought their Christmas Day would just be a quiet home-cooked turkey dinner for two. Jim’s sister and brother-in-law, fellow snowbirds Mary Ellen and Tom Franklin, had planned to travel out-of-town for Christmas, but their plans changed. Now, the Granbergs will have a family celebration after all, and they couldn’t be happier.

Mary and Doug Rose from New York will share their day with their two youngest sons in their son’s house in Niceville. The boys are excellent chefs, according to Mary. In fact, one inherited his grandfather’s baking skills. Mary’s Italian-born father spent time in an internment camp in upstate New York during World War II. While there, he developed incredible baking skills and opened his own bakery after the war. Mary and Doug are anticipating many delectable delights.

Marty and Ron Taylor of Kalamazoo, Michigan, are having trouble deciding which of Destin’s wonderful restaurants to choose for their Christmas meal. They’ve made reservations in two of them just to be safe. They plan to top the day off with a stroll through HarborWalk Village or Baytowne Wharf to enjoy the beautiful decorations.

Marie and Dan Fellows of Iowa City, Iowa, will drive “halfway” to meet with their children and grandchildren. They have rented a large five-bedroom home in Pigeon Forge for their Christmas celebrations.

Audrey and Joe Wolschlag of Urbana, Illinois, used to come down and volunteer at The Waterfront Rescue Mission every year on Christmas Day, but the Fort Walton Beach mission closed their doors. Now, on Christmas Eve day, they accompany their Faith Assembly Christian Church Pastor, Toy Arnette, and about 40 fellow church members to Century, Florida, where they ride in mule-pulled wagons into the back woods to pass out presents to the children who live there. They also join the children and their families for a Christmas church service. On Christmas Day, the Wolschlags enjoy an annual dinner at Harry T’s.

Andrea and Ted Spring, formerly of New York, will celebrate Christmas twice this season. Their daughter, who recently moved to Mary Esther with her husband and two daughters, will host them for good cheer, good food and a gift exchange on Christmas Day. Then, on Jan. 7, they will celebrate a traditional Ukrainian Christmas with their son, his Ukrainian-born wife, their two daughters and her parents. After 56 years of visiting Destin, Ted and Andrea are excited to become permanent residents. The house they are building will be completed by February, and they are already planning to host many future Christmas festivities in their new Calhoun Avenue home.

Jeanette and Paul Schirle from Utica, Michigan, will start their Christmas celebration with the Christmas Eve Mass at Resurrection Catholic Church. Christmas Day will be low-keyed, filled with football watching and Paul’s home cooking. Jeannette enjoys decorating and she has their condominium in Topsail looking like a Christmas paradise, all ready to delight the grandchildren who will be visiting them at the end of the month.

Cynthia and Herb Frank of Delaware have just wrapped up their Hanukkah celebration lighting the last candle of their Menorah on Dec. 19. On Thursday, Dec. 14, they attended a Hanukkah celebration at HarborWalk Village, sponsored by the Chabad of the Emerald Coast. It is the annual lighting of a Grand Menorah with joyful live music, singing and dancing. Dreidels were passed out to children and classic Jewish specialties such as sufganiyots (jelly doughnuts) and latkes (fried potato pancakes) were available with hot cocoa.

No sooner will the holidays end and all the activities of the Destin Snowbird Club begin. The big registration is set for Thursday, Jan. 4, from 1 to 3 p.m. The fee of $8 hasn’t changed since the 2006-2007 season, but the list of activities and events continues to grow. For a complete list of activities, events, golf discounts, etc. check the club website at www.destinsnowbird.org.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Mary Pierce, publicity director, is from Toledo, Ohio, and can be reached at 419-250-9377or destinsbclub.publicity@gmail.com. She will be writing the weekly column for the papers, so if you have something to share contact her.