Latest Area News

‘The Marvel of This Night’

The Northwest Florida State College sponsored Schola Cantorum vocal ensemble presents a series of three Christmas concerts titled “The Marvel of This Night”: Dec. 3 at St. Simon’s on the Sound Episcopal Church in Fort Walton; Dec. 10 at First Presbyterian Church in Crestview; and Dec. 17 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Shalimar.

All concerts begin at 7 p.m. and are free of charge with donations accepted to support the music programs at NWFSC.

The concerts will feature a variety of traditional and contemporary Christmas music from the 14th century to present. Schola Cantorum is under the direction of NWFSC adjunct music professor John Leatherwood.

Geek Lights display opening Dec. 1

BLUEWATER BAY — Preparations are underway for Season 7 of the “Geek Lights on the Corner” Christmas lights and music show.

Public performances begin Dec. 1 and run nightly through Jan. 4. The free performances take place at the corner of Bluewater Boulevard and Antiqua Way.

Shows begin on the hour and half hour starting at 6 p.m., with the last show starting at 9:30 Sunday-Thursday, and 10:30 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Get up-to-the-minute schedule information on the show’s FaceBook page at

Geek Lights consists of Christmas lights and other themed display elements, all under computer control and synchronized to stories and music.

This year’s display features about 85,000 lights, driven by nearly 300 computer-controlled circuits. There is an all-new story to open the show, and many fan favorite songs from past seasons will return.

In addition, there will be a few songs added to the repertoire, and guests should always be prepared for a surprise.

The Geek Lights on the Corner has selected the Junior League of the Emerald Coast as this season’s donation recipient. There will be a cash collection box in the viewing area throughout the season, with 100 percent of the money collected going to support JLEC’s Child Clothing Project.

“We at JLEC are honored that Geek Lights and the Niceville community would be willing to support us,” said Carly Harmer, President of the Junior League of the Emerald Coast. “This year we clothed 330 children from Okaloosa and Walton Counties. We hope that in 2015 we can increase that number and continue to make an impact in these children’s lives.”

The Geek Lights on the Corner are the technical wizardry of Jeff Werner, the “Northwest Florida Geek” and Wendy Werner, his “Spouse Peripheral.”

Jeff is author of the weekly computers and technology Q&A feature “It’s Geek to Me,” which appears on Saturdays in the Northwest Florida Daily News, online at, and in other newspapers across the country.

19th annual Sounds of the Season set for Dec. 5

DESTIN — The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation will present the 19th Annual Sounds of the Season at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at Village Baptist Church.

This holiday concert features six Destin churches collaborating with sacred and Christmas classics from Destin United Methodist, Destin Assembly of God, First Baptist of Destin, Grace Lutheran, Shoreline and Village Baptist churches.

The Community Chorus represents the voices of residents and visitors from the surrounding community.

MKAF CEO, Marcia Hull said, “This annual tradition is Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s gift to unite our community in celebration of the true reason of the Christmas season with special musical soloists, quartets and special surprise appearances from some of the community’s young and emerging artists.”

Admission is a donation of an unwrapped child’s toy to be distributed among the participating churches’ outreach ministries to provide a brighter Christmas for families in need during the holidays.

A love offering at intermission will benefit the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s “All Kinds of Art,” a children’s educational outreach program inspiring students and special needs children in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

For more information, call 650-2226.

NFSYO, White Tie Rock Ensemble to present Christmas concert

NICEVILLE — Have a “White Tie Holiday” with the Northwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center as the NFSYO welcomes back the White Tie Rock Ensemble of Pensacola for a Christmas music extravaganza featuring the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, holiday tunes, favorite holiday movie moments, a carol sing-a-long, and multimedia light show.

The event is free of charge with donations accepted at the door to support the youth orchestra programs of Northwest Florida State College. The concert will be held in the mainstage theater at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College at 100 College Blvd. East.

The Northwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra’s “White Tie Holiday” concert will feature performances of holiday fare such as “Wizards in Winter,” “A Mad Russians Christmas,” “The March of the Kings - Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Christmas Eve in Sarajevo,” “Dreams of the Fireflies,” “O Come All Ye Faithful - O Holy Night” and more.

The NFSYO concert will be conducted by Brian Brown, who also serves as principal violist with the professional Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.

The White Tie Rock Ensemble previously performed a popular Beatles music joint concert with the Northwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra in May as part of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration.

The White Tie Rock Ensemble is comprised of five professional musicians of guitar, drums, bass, keyboard and vocals who reproduce the classic rock sounds of the 1960’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s throughout northwest Florida and South Alabama. The group’s founder Jonathan Clark is also trained as a classical musician and heads the Escambia County Youth Orchestra programs.

Buzzworthy events for Nov. 28-Dec. 4

Want a few suggestions for what to do, where to go and who to see? You’ll find them here each week. Look for details and more ideas throughout Showcase.


‘The Polar Express’: “The Polar Express,” a 2004 computer animated musical Christmas fantasy, will be shown Friday at 7 p.m. outdoors on Baldwin Avenue between Seventh & Eighth streets in downtown DeFuniak Springs. Bring blankets and chairs. Concessions will be available. Santa Claus is scheduling a pre-flight check-in 5:30 – 7 p.m.

ZooLights: The Gulf Breeze Zoo has partnered with Toys for Tots to provide Christmas gifts for children in need in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. The Zoo will offer a special free admission to a sneak peak of ZooLights on Nov. 28 with a donation of a new unwrapped toy. ZooLights continues throughout December. Zoolights opens 5 – 9 p.m. with admission prices $10 for adults and children.


Christmas Reflections: Christmas Reflections, a dazzling display of holiday splendor around the lakeyard in DeFuniak Springs, opens Nov. 28 and will continue through Dec. 31. Hours are 5-9 nightly. Admission is $3 per person. Children ages 6 and under are free. Visit for directions.

Holiday parade: South Walton’s annual holiday parade is at 4 p.m. Nov. 29. It starts at Seagrove Plaza and travels west to Seaside. Stay afterward for “Turn on the Town” with Santa Claus and friends at the amphitheater.


International crafts market: The First Presbyterian Church of Fort Walton Beach, 134 Beal Parkway, S.W., will be the site for a Mini SERRV Market of unique and traditional handmade crafts from around the world. The Market will be open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 and 14.

Winter Market: Old Florida & Holiday Winter Market will be 5-9 p.m. in town center of Watercolor in South Walton. It’s free and open to public and will include luminaries around the park, a visit from Santa, snow, music, treats, lighting of the tree and horse-drawn carriages.


FWB parade: The City of Fort Walton Beach presents A Comic Book Christmas Parade at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1. The parade features a variety of musical entertainment and other excitement as it marches up Eglin Parkway from First Street to the K-Mart parking lot.


Ann Abell exhibit: The Destin Library will host an exhibit by Destin artist Ann Abell in the library’s Calhoun Room through Dec. 13. Abell works in all medias including acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, and ink. The collection to be exhibited is a reflection of her life in the Emerald Coast. Call 837-8572.


Geek Lights: Season 7 of the “Geek Lights on the Corner” Christmas lights and music show opens to the public Dec. 1 and runs nightly through Jan. 4. The free performances take place at the corner of Bluewater Boulevard and Antiqua Way. Shows begin on the hour and half hour starting at 6 p.m., with the last show starting at 9:30 Sunday-Thursday, and 10:30 on Fridays and Saturdays.


Tree-Lighting: The 28th Annual Christmas Tree-Lighting hosted by the City of Destin will be held at the Destin Community Center at 6 p.m. Dec. 4. This will be an outdoor event for the entire family with a visit from Santa Claus and live entertainment. Donations of toys and canned food will be collected for families in need.

Animation in Motion display to open Friday

The Niceville Christmas Lady returns to Niceville with the Animation In Motion display for the 19th year.

This year the display moved to the former K-Mart store in the Oak Creek Shopping Center.

Debbie Lewis and her husband, Kevin, have made this a free community and family event. The display has grown immeasurably through the years with added displays featuring all that symbolizes Christmas. This is their gift to the community.

The display always opens the day after Thanksgiving, from 6 to 9 p.m., and the every night until Dec. 27.

Christmas on parade

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 12:15pm

Communities across the Emerald Coast and beyond are ringing in the holidays with parades and other activities. To help you plan, here’s a calendar highlighting the many parades organizers have scheduled.

South Walton
When: 4 p.m. Nov. 29
Where: Starts at Seagrove Plaza and travels west to Seaside.
More fun: “Turn on the Town” with Santa Claus and friends at the amphitheater after the parade.

Fort Walton Beach
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1
Where: Starts at First Street goes north on Eglin Parkway and ends at Kmart
Theme: A Comic Book Christmas
Contact: Call 833-9576 or visit

Light Up Milton
When: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 5
Where: Lighted boat parade on the Blackwater River at Riverwalk Park
More fun: Santa Rosa Arts and Culture Foundation presents Holiday Gallery Night/Light-Up Milton. Pick up a program at the Dragonfly Gallery, 6815 Caroline St. Children may join the Santa’s Reindeer Parade, see the Live Nativity Manger Scene, ride in the horse drawn Cinderella Carriage.
Contact: Visit

Niceville-Valparaiso Community Parade
When: 10 a.m. Dec. 6
Where: Route is from John Sims Parkway at the intersection of Palm Boulevard to Partin Drive where the parade will turn and travel between the Children’s Park and Ruckel Middle School.
Contact: Jimmie Boisjolie at 699-0045 or

Navarre Christmas in the Park
When: 1-6 p.m. Dec. 6; parade starts at 2 p.m.
Where: Navarre Park at the foot of the Navarre Bridge. Parade starts at the Navarre Library and will roll south along Presidio, making a left at Esplanade Street and ending in the back parking lot of Centennial Bank.
More fun: Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos with children. Children can participate in holiday crafts. The 20-foot Christmas tree will be lighted at 6 p.m. Entertainment, featuring local schools and choirs will start at 3 p.m.
Contact: Visit or call 939-3267.

Crestview Christmas Parade
When: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: Main Street, from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue north to Cedar Avenue, west on Cedar and then south on Wilson Street to Beech Avenue

Milton Christmas Parade
When: 6 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: From Milton Community Center on Byrom Street north to James Street, east to Stewart Street, south to Elva Street
Theme: A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas
Contact: Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce, 623-2339

30th Annual Destin Christmas Parade
When: 10 a.m. Dec. 13
Where: Floats will start at Downtown Destin Shopping Center (Old Time Pottery) and travel west down Harbor Boulevard (U.S. 98) to Nightown on Stahlman Ave-nue. Stand on the north side of Harbor Boulvard to watch.
Theme: Christmas Trees & Memories, Celebrating Destin’s 30 Years
Contact: Call 850/654-5184 or email

The 4th Annual Boggy Bayou Holiday Boat Parade
When: 6 p.m. Dec. 13
Where: Hosted by North Light Yacht Club in Niceville
More fun: 5-8 p.m. live music and kids activities. Event benefits Fisher House of Emerald Coast.
Contact: 259-4956 or visit

Harbor Boat Parade
When: Activities are scheduled 5-6 p.m. Dec. 14; parade starts at 6 p.m.
Where: along HarborWalk Village; parade in the harbor
More fun: fireworks finale at end of the boat parade
Contact: Destin History and Fishing Museum at 837-6611 or email

Bluewater Boat Parade
When: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: Boats will leave Bluewater Bay Marina and travel north to Nelson’s Cove, around Rocky Bayou and South to Rocky One marker then return to Bluewater Bay Marina.
More fun: Awards and festivities will follow at LJ Schooners Dockside Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Live Entertainment with Ronny Dean Garrett, Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest, a visit by Santa Claus and restaurant specials will be offered throughout the evening.
Contact: Email frontdesk@bwb-marina or call 897-2821.

Asiago’s Skillet makes breakfast special treat

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:10am

OKALOOSA ISLAND — One of the things that stands out immediately about Asiago’s Skillet is its hours.

The restaurant is open from midnight until noon every day. With HelenBack, Destin and downtown Fort Walton Beach nearby, it has a great location to cater to the late-night crowds.

It does so with an exclusively breakfast menu.

The Food
The restaurant serves a number of omelets, breakfast skillets and bowls, and other breakfast foods.

No matter how much food you’re craving, they have the perfect portion: everything from breakfast bowls stuffed with eggs, breakfast meats, and more to healthier items like egg-white vegetable omelets.

Our waiter told us everything is homemade, including their huge biscuits.

For those of you who like to spice up your breakfast, there’s a heavily stocked hot sauce bar. Our waiter also alluded to future plans for a mimosa or a Bloody Mary bar.

The coffee was fresh and delicious. Even better, our waiter left our own pot at our table.

I ordered Asiago’s Shrimp & Grits Skillet. A hot pan filled with cheesy grits, pink Gulf shrimp and two eggs (I ordered the eggs over easy).

My eggs were perfectly cooked, as were my tasty shrimp. The grits could have been a bit cheesier, but they were still good.

My guest ordered the Ham and Cheese Omelet. It came with a biscuit and homestyle potatoes. She could have told the waiter to “shipwreck her potatoes,” or have them covered with bacon, sautéed onions, cheese and gravy, but opted for the plainer version.

Her meal was well seasoned and nothing was overdone. The homestyle potatoes were delicious as is.

I snagged a piece of the biscuit, which was the shining star of the meal for me. It was crisp and sweet (thanks to a layer of honey) on the outside and fluffy and buttery on the inside.

The atmosphere
Asiago’s Skillet is relaxed and cozy, with an upscale diner feel to it.

The service
Our waiter had us laughing from the start of our meal. He’d been at the restaurant since it opened (we came in around 10:30 a.m.) and was noting the differences between the “night” and “day” crowds.

During our meal, he was courteous and helpful.

A final taste
Asiago’s Skillet joins the flock of local breakfast spots with a unique menu as well as convenient hours.

Local authors from A to Z seek consideration of their new books

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 11:02am

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Since September, I’ve been inundated with requests to help publicize books. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t possibly read and review them all.

I did, however, have an enjoyable conversation with Carolyn Guest, the Southern mansion mystery lady from Navarre.

She was at the St. Simon’s Craft Fair, as were several other authors, selling and signing their books.

Guest’s newest came out in September and is Book 7 in her series. It takes place in Chattanooga, Tenn., at the Maclellan House in the Bluff View Art District. Guest sets her books in real places that she has visited.

The 134-page paperback is published by Trent Prints of Pace and is available for $9 on, and for $11.10, which includes shipping and handling, by email at and on the author’s website,

Here are some more new books by local authors for your consideration:
- “Unusual Attitudes: Flight Instructor Memoirs” by Edwin D. Armbuster is filled with tales from his thousands of hours of flying over the jungles of Panama and Caribbean in single-engine planes. It’s a 436-page paperback published in June by Xlibris. It’s $19.95 online. Email the Niceville author at

- “My Inner Child Must be Heard: From Despair to Dancing on the Clouds” by Corina Zalace of Niceville is a collection of poems that chronicles her journey as a polio survivor and battles with clinical depression and bulimia. Also published by Xlibris in June, the 178-page paperback is available online for $17.99.

- “Tales of Airn, Books 1-3” by James Clinton were published by Imagination Rendered this fall in digital format only. Books 4-6 were scheduled to be release soon after. Many of you will know Clinton better as Clint Mahle of Northwest Florida State College. He produced the tales of Books 1-3 as a play at the college in 2010. The books are available online.

- James Keir Baughman of Fort Walton Beach in June released the last in his collection of five republications of lost, out-of-print Civil War regimental histories and diaries from units that fought with his great grandfather in the 73rd Indiana. The newest is “Sergeant-major William Ross Hartpence (1894): History of the 51st Indiana veteran volunteer infantry regiment.” The 456-page paperback is available at for $23.16.

I think that about wraps up the local authors for the moment. Then there are emails like this:

“My recently published novel titled ‘The Acheron Deception’ has several chapters set in Niceville and Tampa. Are you interested in reviewing the book? Sincerely, Patrick F. Rooney”

I asked Mr. Rooney for excerpts of the Niceville references, which he provided with this explanation:

“My fictional ‘white collar prison’ in Niceville is actually the setting for several chapters in the book. I thought the town name lent itself well as a good place to have a low security (white collar) prison.”

The 350-page paperback published by Savoir Press is available online for $12.69.

Shannon Richard’s mother let us know that her daughter’s books were showing up at Sam’s Club in addition to book stores.

Richard grew up here, graduating from Fort Walton Beach High School and from Florida State University. She lives in Tallahassee, and you can find her romance novels online, too.

The latest is titled “Unstoppable” and was released in July. It’s a 400- page paperback and retails for $8.

Steve Cochran II contacted the Daily News on Facebook. He says he grew up here, but lives elsewhere now.

He has written a children’s book called “Robot Santa” that was scheduled to be published Nov. 1, but I can’t find it for sale online anywhere. You might keep checking if you’re interested.

And the eight non-local books on my desk will remain a mystery ...

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