Nicholson wins Founder's Day dessert competition

Pam Griffin
pgriffin@thedestinlog.com
Dessert competition winner Rachel Fife Nicholson and her grandfather Capt. Ben Marler at Founder's Day 2017. [SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

The city of Destin honored the founding fathers and their families at the 20th annual Founders’ Day Celebration May 13 at the Destin Community Center.

In an article last year, History and Fishing Museum Director Kathy Marler-Blue said she grew up attending early family reunions of the Marler and Destin families, some even in her home. As the families grew, they became too large to meet in homes and were stopped.

But the family reunions returned when the city held the first invitation-only Founder’s Day on Mother’s Day weekend at the harbor in 1997. The celebration was moved to Clement Taylor Park in 1999, but soon changed location again to the Destin Community Center.

As the celebration grows larger, the original founding families of Destin are still seen as those who lived here before the Destin Bridge was built in 1933. Those last names, according to Marler-Blue, are Brunson, Calhoun, Chambless, Destin, Jones, Kelly, Maltezo, Marler, Melvin, O’Neil, Pascal, Shirah, Taylor, Walter, Wells and Woodward.

Now, each year Founder’s Day is celebrated with a huge fish fry, a dessert competition started in 2008 by Lisa Firth at the Community Center, and plenty of time for catching up and sharing.

This year’s dessert competition, which had 11 entries, was won by Rachel Fife Nicholson with her spumoni cake with mascarpone frosting. A true member of a founding family, she is the great-great-granddaughter of William T. "Uncle Billy" Marler, who named the city after Capt. Leonard Destin, was the first postmaster, held first school and church in his home, fished, and built boats. 

Nicholson is also the granddaughter of longtime Destin fisherman, author and "fisher of men" Capt. Ben and Joan Marler and daughter of businessman Russell and Beth Marler Fife. She follows in the culinary footsteps of her mother, who won first place in the competition in 2012 with a white chocolate/raspberry cheesecake.

Judges for the competition were the Destin Firefighters.