Empson believes in preserving the backbone — fishing

Tina Harbuck
The Destin History and Fishing Museum recently presented Dan Empson with a big check that represented his giving throughout last year to the workings of the museum. Pictured from left are Museum board of director chairman Dave Steele, Museum director Jean Melvin and Empson.

For Dan Empson, giving to The Destin History and Fishing Museum is a no-brainer.

“It’s a fishing museum and fishing is Destin,” said Empson, owner of Harry T’s and museum board member.

“Destin was founded on fishing. It thrives on fishing. Fishing is basically the backbone of this community. You have to take care of the back … if you don’t it falls apart,” Empson said.

Last year, Empson donated more than $31,000 that tremendously helped the museum.

 “He’s been unbelieveable,” said Museum Director Jean Melvin. “He keeps us  all in the middle of the road.”

Empson, who’s been a board member for nine years, has donated in two ways through in-kind donations and cash donations, according to Melvin.

Some of his in-kind donations have been in products and merchandise such as for the Gumbo Contest and Silent Auction, Holiday on the Harbor Boat Parade and the food booth for the Destin Seafood Festival.  

“These in-kind donations enabled the museum to make money during the fundraisers,” Melvin said.

 He has also supplied labor to help with events and other tasks at the museum for renovation projects.

As for the cash donations they have helped to provide revenue for general museum operations and exhibit construction.

“You don’t even have to ask him. If he hears about it, he does it,” said Dave Steele, chairman of the museum board.

“He’s probably one of the most giving people I’ve met in a long time and he loves us for some reason. Without him we would proably make it, but he makes it a whole lot easier,” Steele said.

“I believe in the fishing museum,” Empson said. “I really believe that’s  what our nut is, our claim to fame. We’ve got to take care of that.

“The beach is the beach, is the beach, is the beach. But fishing, who’s  got the best fishing? We do. So why not emphasize it and keep it alive and well.”

“Everything else is just words … best beaches, best restaurants, best bars. Everybody can say that. But who says the best fishing? We can, because it’s true. That’s why I help them,” Empson added.

The museum, located at 108 Stahlman Avenue adjacent to the Destin Community Center, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors and military; $3 for children/students (age 7 through college;  and free to members and children 6 and under.

For more information or how to get involved with the museum call 837-6611.