'To be of service': Lloyd Taylor of one of Destin's 1st families to lead Christmas parade

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
Lloyd Taylor will be the grand marshall for this year's Christmas parade in Destin. Taylor is pictured here at Clement Taylor Park, named for his grandfather, which was previously the site of the city's old elementary school as well as many of its Christmas celebrations.

From getting nuts and fruit in a basket as a youngster to seeing Santa, marching bands and floats parade down U.S. 98, Lloyd Taylor has seen Christmas come a long way in Destin.

"It's a tremendous honor," said the 77-year-old Taylor, who will serve as grand marshal for an the annual Christmas parade.

The 38th "Elf on the Shelf" Destin Christmas Parade is set to roll out at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 down Harbor Boulevard (U.S. 98) to Stahlman Avenue, and Taylor will be leading it.

Clement Taylor and his wife, Louisa. Clement was born in 1866 and died in 1954. Taylor's grandson, Lloyd Taylor, will serve as grand marshal of the 2022 Destin Christmas parade.

More parade news:What to know before you go to the Destin Christmas parade and boat parade

"I was very much surprised because I know so many other people that are so deserving to be grand marshal. It was big surprise to me," he said.

Taylor, who is a descendant of one of the founding families of Destin, recalls some of the first Christmas celebrations being held at the old elementary school, which is where Clement Taylor Park on Calhoun Avenue is now located. The park is named after Taylor's grandfather, Clement Edward Taylor.

"We had nuts and fruit in a basket. ... That's what we got," Taylor said.

"Uncle Elisha Marler was the Santa Claus," he added.

When he got to be a little older, the Christmas celebration moved to the old Destin Community House, which was built in 1947 on the site of the current Destin Community Center, but much smaller.

"I remember coming out of the kitchen downstairs, and the singing of Jingle Bells. The door was almost being broken down. The small kids would start crying, they thought the world was coming to an end.

"Out popped Santa Claus. … Of course, the little kids were afraid of him, but then each one got to go up and sit in his lap and have your picture taken," Taylor said.

"My grandparents, my mother and daddy, they all believed we are on this earth to be of service to mankind and neighbors. That was instilled in all of us as kids," Lloyd Taylor said.

The community center board of directors, which was the governing board of Destin prior to it becoming a city, used money from fish fries to go to Pensacola to buy gifts to hand out to the children at Christmas "once we got away from the nuts and fruit," Taylor said.

When he got old enough, Taylor helped with the fish fries. 

"My grandparents, my mother and daddy, they all believed we are on this earth to be of service to mankind and neighbors. That was instilled in all of us as kids. As we got older, we all participated in whatever service the community had," Taylor said. 

Taylor tells of how his grandfather, Clement Taylor and Dewey Destin's dad, Buck Destin, would have a fish fry every Labor Day to raise money to help pay for the Christmas presents for the children. 

As an adult, Taylor served on the Destin Community board of directors, and when Destin became a city in 1984, he was elected to the first city council. 

Pictured here is Elisha Marler as Santa Claus and a very young Kathy Marler Blue at one of the Christmas Eve parties at the Destin Community Center.

He also served two terms on the Okaloosa County School Board and retired from the school district with 40-plus years of service, counting teaching, his time on the school board and working in student services. 

He also serves as president of the Marler Memorial Cemetery in Destin, is a board member of the Destin History and Fishing Museum and also belongs to several other civic organizations as well as the Masons. He is also a board member of the Troy University Alumni Affairs.

But the one thing he's most proud of is "the work ethic I learned working with Ben Marler Sr. And Tom Marler fishing," Taylor said.

He said they operated their business as a service to the customer.

"It wasn't we are just taking your money and taking you fishing. It was more than that, they were like family.

Taylor said people would brag on Capt. Ben's business.

"He never said yes, I have. He always said we, he emphasized we. We have been blessed. Well, that meant all of us that worked for him," Taylor said.

And now leading the Destin Christmas parade is just another act of service for Taylor. 

"I think the parade is important. It takes a lot of people to put that on, just like the boat parade. It doesn't just happen, there are a lot of people involved," he said. 

"And I think the community looks forward to it every year. It's important to the citizens of Destin and not just them, but people come from all over the county to the parade. And some out of state because Destin is a tourist destination. They come back year after year. They'll plan a weekend just for that. 

"I'm very excited about it … just can't wait," Taylor said.