Destin Christmas Parade: Retired captain, longtime resident Tommy Browning is grand marshal

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

He's been a captain for many years, but never a marshal.

Tommy Browning, the retired captain of the charter boat Finest Kind and longtime Destin resident, will serve as this year's grand marshal for the Destin Christmas Parade set to roll out at 10 a.m. Dec. 12.

The theme for the 36th annual parade is “Joy to the World.”

Browning, along with help from his son, Tommy Lee, have brought a little joy this year with lighted crosses they have built for those around town to display in their yards.

Tommy Browning, pictured at his home in Destin with his wife Janie, says Christmas is all about spending time with family. Browning will serve as this year's grand marshal for the Destin Christmas Parade.

For more than 25 years, Tommy and Janie Browning have displayed a lighted wooden cross on their dock overlooking Spring Lake during the Christmas season.

"It just looks good," said the 84-year-old Tommy.

"And it reminds people of the true meaning of Christmas," Janie added.

However, this year when the coronavirus hit and things took a turn for the worse, the Brownings decided to leave the cross up to spread a little light and hope.

"We left it up all year on account of all this coronavirus stuff. ... It's been a bad year," Tommy said.

Tommy Browning, 84, along with his son Tommy Lee, have built about 100 lighted wooden crosses for people around town this year during the coronavirus pandemic. Browning will serve as this year's grand marshal of the Destin Christmas Parade.

It didn't take long for the cross to get noticed and people started inquiring about getting a lighted cross for their home.

Building the crosses was a two-man project for Tommy and Tommy Lee.

More:April 2020 - Crosses light up Destin with hope

Between the two of them they have built about 100 crosses that are displayed all around Destin.

"After I got the hang of it, it took about 30 minutes (to build)," Tommy said.

"All I hear is the pow, pow, pow," Janie said of them stapling the lights to the crosses.

Although the crosses are a reminder of Christmas, Tommy said his fondest memories of Christmas were when his mother was alive.

The Brownings have displayed a lighted wooden cross on their dock overlooking  Spring Lake for more than 25 years.

"When we had mother we always had a good Christmas," he said.

Janie said her most memorable one was when they had their first baby, Tommy Lee, who was born Dec. 3.

"That Christmas was very special because we thought God has finally blessed us with a child," she said.

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Some of Tommy's earliest memories of Christmas in Destin were at the old Destin Community Center with Elisha Marler playing Santa Claus and handing out gifts to the children.

As for this year's Christmas parade and serving as grand marshal, "I'm looking forward to it," Tommy said.

"It's just a Destin tradition," Janie said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of people. I just hope it ain't too cold," Tommy added.

The parade will begin at the Downtown Destin Shopping Center and travel west along Harbor Boulevard (U.S. 98) to Stahlman Avenue. Spectators are asked to stand on the north side of Harbor Boulevard to watch the parade.

City officials also are encouraging those who attend to:

  • Wear a mask/face covering.
  • Maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet between individuals not within the same household.
  • Limit spectator groups to no more than eight people.
  • If you are sick, exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, stay home.

Browning said he thinks Destin will have a good turnout for the parade, despite the virus.

"People are ready to get out. There's plenty of room for somebody to stay away from somebody else. And they'll be outside," he said.