Latest Area News

Earth Day Festival April 5 in Freeport

FREEPORT — Celebrate Earth Day with the experts at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center on April 5.

The annual festival will feature live music by the Wildlife Specialists, festival food, hands-on environmental demos and exhibits, a silent auction, World of Wonder, live animal programs, arts and crafts, local vendors, nature hikes, a children’s garden, bounce house, games, face painting, and more.

Special performances throughout the day include: Seaside Neighborhood School with their robots, Freeport Elementary’s Sophistocats, Biophilia Birds of Prey, along with Terrie D and her native flute playing.

The Earth Day Festival kicks off at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m.

Admission is $8 adults, $5 children, 2 and under free. E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is at 4956 State Road 20 East. Call 835-1824 or visit

National spoken word artist to perform locally

NICEVILLE – In Say the Word’s continued efforts to promote poetry and the art of spoken word in Okaloosa and Walton counties, the group has secured appearances by nationally renowned spoken word artist John Lacarbiere III.

Lacarbiere will perform April 2 at 7 p.m. at the French Quarter Bar and Grill in Niceville and April 16 at 7 p.m. at Amavida Coffee in Rosemary Beach.

Lacarbiere was born and raised in New Orleans and is a national spoken word artist, author and publisher.

Lacarbiere started writing at the age of 8 inspired by local and national hip-hop artists, and after witnessing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he was inspired to take his art to the next level.

In 2008 he released his first book “I Write To…” and has since released six other titles and four spoken word albums. In between performances, Lacarbiere has produced several spoken word events to include a weekly open mic venue, titled “Word Connections.”

Lacarbiere was awarded the “Writer of the Year” at the 2012 Write NOLA, and in October of 2012, started his own publishing company SWMN Publishing LLC. He has been featured on stages all over the country.

In addition to tirelessly promoting the arts, Lacarbiere is passionate about giving back to his community, and feeds the homeless every Saturday with friends.

“When Say the Word started in March 2012, it was my dream to one day have the means to bring in outside artists to perform for our community,” said Maria Schabla, founder of Say the Word. “Spoken word is a lot more popular in bigger cities and a lot of citizens in Okaloosa and Walton counties have never even heard of spoken word.

“John Lacarbiere III is that dream realized, and we are thrilled to welcome him as our first featured artist. In addition to being a celebrated writer and spoken word artist, John gives his time selflessly to help his community. I think he is a great role model for a lot of our younger artists in the area”.

Say the Word is a collective group of poets and spoken word artists dedicated to creating a platform for poets and spoken word artists to perform, encouraging local writers to collaborate and network; and making poetry more viable in the community by hosting monthly open mic nights.

To learn more about, Say the Word, visit them on Facebook/saythewordpoetry or call 420-4139. Email for information.

Vinny McGuire's makes excellent pizza

DESTIN – What’s your favorite desert island food?
For some it’s a big, juicy hamburger, invented by – well, let’s not go there. For others it’s a tofu and veggie horror … that’s just Crazytown and we won’t go there either.
To paraphrase Shirley Jackson, no live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality – without pizza!
And that’s where we’re going – to Vinny McGuire’s Pizza Pub.

The food
Vinny McGuire’s serves pizza. Do you need anything more?
The menu consists of small and large pizzas, with a smattering of appetizers, a salad and gelato. And I like that limited menu. Choices are great but too many are a pain in the you-know-where.
You do, however, get to choose from just about everything they put on a pizza. Vinny’s calls it “Create your own pizza.” The server hands you a one-page menu and a golfer’s pencil, and you circle what you want, starting with the sauce. Italian, red or white sauce? ( I definitely don’t want white sauce on a pizza, but I guess the Yankees roll that way ). Circle your choice.
Next come toppings. You get the first three at no extra charge and every one after that is a dollar.
Let’s start with cheese. They offer all of the standards, like mozzarella or Provolone, and a few not-so-standards, like goat cheese. That’s what I got on my small pie and was blown away by how rich and fatty goat cheese tastes – it might be my new favorite food I’m not supposed to eat.
From cheese we move to fruit and veggie toppings. Again, you choose among the usual and unusual suspects – sliced enemy vegetable (onions), fresh spinach, banana peppers or pineapple, among many others. I chose jalapenos and black olives. A word of warning about the jalapenos – they’re like little slices of lava in your mouth. If you don’t like hot, spicy foods, avoid jalapenos.
Let’s wrap up our pizza creation with a meat or seafood topping. In this category, you get lots of unconventional selections, from smoked prime rib and chicken to smoked pork, ham, Philly steak, Cajun sausage (Dang! I meant to try that!) and shrimp, anchovies or prosciutto. Those are just a few of the options.
Your pizza can also go “naked” with simply red sauce and mozzarella.
My friend opted for the ground beef and crimini mushrooms pizza, and I stole a slice. It was very flavorful and filling. That’s true of all the Vinny’s ingredient combinations we tried (including mozzarella and Italian sausage).
The small pizzas are not that small, and the large pizzas are indeed large, so don’t let your eyes get the better of your stomach.
Our pizzas came with a ranch dipping sauce. In the interest of gastronomical accuracy I tried it, and I’m happy to report it applied another flavor dimension to our pizza. But if ranch can make a carrot taste good, I assume pizza would be no problem.
Before our pies arrived we munched on fried ravioli, which was crusty on the outside and creamy-delicious on the inside. You can also opt for mozzarella sticks or Vinny’s spinach dip. The crispy calamari on the menu wasn’t available.
The menu also lists a Greek salad and, for dessert, gelato in pistachio, mocha, chocolate and berry flavors.

The atmosphere
It was a cool night so we ate inside, which has limited seating. In warmer weather, you’ll want to sit on the patio, which has a walkup bar.
The interior was comfortable and cozy, with lots and lots of dollar bills hanging from the ceiling, a McGuire’s tradition. Each table had a candle, and the walls were festooned with funky Italian posters of American movies made in the 1960s and ’70s. They were a hoot to take in.

The service
The ever vigilant and funny John kept a good eye on our table, firing up our candle and making sure we had to-go boxes (yes, our eyes got the better of our stomachs).

A final taste
Folks who believe McGuire’s should stick to corned-beef sandwiches are missing out – the pizza at Vinny’s is excellent.
The crust is substantial, the toppings generous and the pie size bigger than you’d expect. Sit outside with a pub glass of their homebrewed IPA and watch the sun set over Choctawhatchee Bay.
It’s not a desert island, but you didn’t want to go there anyway, did you?


Restaurant: Vinny McGuire’s Pizza Pub

Location: 29 Harbor Blvd., Destin

Telephone: (850) 650-1234

Hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. seven days per week

Handicap accessibility: good

Children’s menu: no

Reservations: not necessary

Price range:

Pizza (small): $15
Pizza (large): $20
Pizza (naked, small): $12
Pizza (naked, large): $17
Extra toppings: $1
Appetizers: $8.99-$9.99
Greek Salad: $4.99
Gelato: $3.99

Payment: major credit cards


Dance for Life April 5 to benefit Covenant Hospice

CRESTVIEW – The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Crestview is hosting the 4th Annual Dance for Life, an evening of ballroom dance to benefit Covenant Hospice, at 6:30 p.m. April 5 in the Crestview High School Auditorium.

The event will feature amateur and professional dancers from across the Emerald Coast.

This year’s featured performers are Justin Guilmette and Kimalee Piedad, winners of both the United States Dance Championship and the British Invitational Exhibition World Championship.

Simply being invited to the British exhibition is one of the highest honors in the professional dance world – only six couples are invited each year to participate.

Piedad has also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” While cabaret is the duo’s specialty, they perform all styles of ballroom and Latin style dance.

David Colon, owner of the local Fred Astaire Dance Studio, said, “Each year this dance showcase gets bigger and better. We are excited about hosting the event again, and we are thrilled to introduce local performing arts lovers to Justin and Kimalee.

Their performances are full of emotion, beauty and amazingly graceful lifts that leave the audience breathless.

“Dancing is truly a celebration of life, and Covenant Hospice is all about quality of life and offering quality time to those they serve. It is such a great cause and a rewarding partnership for both organizations.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $30 for VIP admission, which will include premier reserved seating for the show and an exclusive post-event cocktail party with Guilmette and Piedad.

“This event would make such an incredible date night for couples who are looking to do something special and fun, right here close to home,” Colon said. “Everyone will enjoy the variety of dance and music at the show, followed by tasty hors d’oeuvres and drinks at the after-party.”

Tickets can be purchased at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 301 N. Main St. in Crestview, or by phone at 682-1455.

Charity events such as Dance for Life help fund Covenant Hospice’s special programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

These programs include bereavement services, children’s support programs, chaplain services and indigent patient care.

Covenant Hospice accepts patients regardless of ability to pay. In 2013, the organizations provided over $1.5 million in care for uninsured or under-insured patients facing a terminal illness.

Covenant Hospice is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive, compassionate services to patients and loved ones during times of life-limiting illnesses.

For more information about Covenant Hospice or to make a hospice inquiry, contact the local branch offices at 682-3628 (Crestview) and 729-1800 (Fort Walton Beach) or visit online.

Florida Heritage Awards honor state culture at its best

Before you read any further, make yourself a note that the 12th annual Florida Heritage Awards ceremony, celebrating Florida Heritage Month, likely will be held the third week of March 2015.

Then make plans to attend. It’s free and open to the public.

For the last two years, it has been held at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, a perfect site in every way.

This year’s event, the 11th annual, filled the evening of March 18 with Sites and Sounds of Florida, the theme.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner presided over the presentation of awards along with help from First Lady Ann Scott.

Sandy Shaughnessy, director of the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, served ably and charmingly as emcee.

We were treated to delightful entertainment including three actors who portrayed Henry Flagler (Paul Jellinek), Thomas Edison (Frank Attwood) and Mary Mcleod Bethune (Ersula Knox Odom), respectively. Odom was especially spellbinding.

The Senior Hellenic Dancers of Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church, Tallahassee, favored us with impressive footwork and costumes.

It was the African Caribbean Dance Theatre, however, who blew the roof off the joint. Seven percussion musicians and eight vividly dressed dancers gave a performance that will long be remembered by those who saw it. They rocked!

So did this year’s inductees into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame: artist Bruce Helander and musician Tom Petty.

The Florida Council on Arts and Culture, of which I’m part, made those recommendations back in November, so it was gratifying to see they were accepted.

Helander, easily spotted in his fuchsia derby, was there to accept in person. Petty sent a nice video and his brother, Bruce, to accept on his behalf.

John Whitney Payson, a longtime arts advocate and one-time owner of several galleries, was named Ambassador of the Arts.

Secretary of State Historic Preservation Awards were bestowed on Dr. Barbara E. Mattick, who received the Senator Bob Williams Award, and Walter B. Fraser, who received the Mary Call Darby Collins Award.

Florida Folk Heritage Awards were given to third generation net-maker Billy Burbank III, self-taught artist and cultural advocate Guy LaBree, Greek-American dancer John Lulias and maritime historian and boatbuilder Bob Pitt.

Janet Burroway was honored with the Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing. Among her many accomplishments, Burroway is the author of eight novels including “Bridge of Sand,” set on Florida’s gulf coast and was a silver medalist in the Florida Book Awards.

Florida Book Awards went to: Nancy J. Cavanaugh, children’s literature, for “This Journal Belongs to Ratchet”; Rick Yancey, young adult, for “The Final Descent”; John Tkac, popular fiction, for “Talking to Water”; Randy Wayne White, general fiction, for “Deceived”; Craig Blais, poetry, for “About Crows”; Manuel A. Lopez, Spanish language, for “Los Poetas Nunca Pecan Demasiado”; Tom Williams, general nonfiction, for “Surrounded by Thunder”; Henry Knight, Florida nonfiction, for “Tropic of Hopes: California, Florida, and the Selling of American Paradise, 1869-1929”; and Jerald T. Milanich and Nina J. Root, visual arts, for “Enchantments: Julian Dimock’s Photographs of Southwest Florida.”

It takes so many sponsores to make events like this happen: Citizens for Florida Arts Inc., The Florida Book Awards, Florida Association of Museums, Orange Springs, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Florida Humanities Council, Florida Virtual Campus, the School of Theatre at Florida State, Tallahassee Nurseries, Gandy Printers and the Fresh Market.

Did I mention we had some yummy things to eat, too?

LuPone stars in Sinfonia gala Saturday

A no-nonsense reputation precedes Patti LuPone everywhere she goes, including telephone interviews.

And yet, the Broadway superstar gives generous, sometimes surprising answers often punctuated with warm, throaty laughter.

LuPone will be in concert Saturday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center when Sinfonia Gulf Coast presents its end-of-season gala: An Evening with Patti LuPone in “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda … played that part.”

LuPone took a few minutes during her busy tour schedule to talk about her career and the show, which was originally conceived and directed by Scott Wittman with musical arrangements by Dick Gallagher.

It turned into what would become LuPone’s first solo performance on the Carnegie Hall stage and chronicles how she ended up there.

“The selections are derived from a chronological history of my life in musical theater,” LuPone said. “But they are not necessarily what you might expect, not the main role. Growing up, listening to opera with my mother, I always responded to the ‘other’ character.”

The Tony award-winning LuPone’s earliest memories of performing are not of singing or acting, but of dancing.

“I started dancing when I was 4 years old,” she said. “My father was principal of the only elementary school in our hometown. He started an extra-curricular program after school that included dance. My mother enrolled me, and that’s where I was bit. I fell in love with the audience and never looked back.”

She credits music teacher/choral mistress Esther Scott with “absolutely recognizing” her potential.

“A lot happened through her, much of my inspiration. She would give me solos in the chorus,” LuPone said.

She believes the desire to perform is innate in human nature.

“I think everyone wants to be on the musical theater stage,” she said. “You have rock and rollers writing musicals. It’s crazy!
“Sting wrote a musical. Elton John wrote a musical. Bono wrote a musical. I think Sheryl Crow is writing a musical.

“TV shows like ‘Glee’ and movies like ‘High School Musical’ just threw a light on something that has always existed.”

Sinfonia Music and Artistic Director Demetrius Fuller has been working two years to get LuPone here to perform with the orchestra.

“Sinfonia is honored to have multiple award-winning singer/actress Patti LuPone join us for our annual gala event,” he said.
“Aside from having one of the most marvelous voices, her resilience as an artist of stage, screen and TV is incomparable to her peers.

“There doesn't seem to be a genre that she has not conquered.”

In addition to her legendary musical theater performances, LuPone has starred in numerous television shows, television movies, Emmy-nominated guest appearances, written a best-selling memoir and sung on celebrated recordings.

She’s recently had a recurring role on the hit show “Girls” as she has had in the past on such favorites as “30 Rock.” And she starred in “Life Goes On.”

“Being on stage is my favorite,” she said, “because that’s an actor’s medium, really. That’s between the actor and the audience. That’s the magic.”

LuPone enjoys a longtime association with playwright/director David Mamet.

“David and I grew up together in the business,” she said. “There’s a deep musicality to his work. I respond to that and to his ideas even if I don’t always understand them.

“I am so honored to be associated with a living playwright, and I want to work with him for the rest of my life.”

LuPone explained that “Could, Would, Shoulda” is “always evolving.”

“There are always songs I wish I could have done and songs that I remember,” she said.

The list of shows represented includes “Hair,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Funny Girl,” “West Side Story” and “Peter Pan” and, of course, her Tony Award-winning performances in “Evita” and “Gypsy.”

“When we do it with just piano and voice, there’s more improvising,” she said. “With a full orchestra, we have to follow a set song list, but as long as the orchestra wants to have fun, it will be a fun night.”

“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda … played that part” will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach.

Preferred seating ticket is $49.50; reserved table seating with light hors d’oeuvres is $125. Call 269-7129 or visit

Eglin coastline gets 40 new buoys

Northwest Florida Daily News - Outdoors - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 2:17pm
U.S. Coast Guard Station Pensacola recently posted about 40 new buoys along Eglin’s coastline, from Post’l Point to Bayview Club.

Bojamz for Planting Peace Festival on March 30

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:06am

DESTIN — The First Bojamz for Planting Peace Festival will be held March 30 at Boshamps Oyster House 2– 10 p.m.

The festival will feature live music from The Heavy Pets, Heritage, Continuum, Dismal Creek and Theodore Von.

A $10 donation will be taken at the door and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Planting Peace, a non-profit organization specializing in de-worming, orphanages, rain forest conservation, tree planting, equality and peace.

The proceeds from the event will go specifically to de-worming children in Haiti and Guatemala.

Aaron Jackson, founder of Planting Peace is a Destin native.

Gulf Breeze Arts Festival on tap March 29, 30

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:04am

GULF BREEEZE — The City of Gulf Breeze and Gulf Breeze Arts Inc. invites everyone to enjoy the 20th Annual Gulf Breeze Celebrates the Arts Festival on March 29 and 30.

The fine arts and fine crafts festival is a family event and will be held in Gulf Breeze proper, 675 Gulf Breeze Parkway.

Open to the public 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday, the festival is free to the public.

More than 140 artists will be selected by a jury of fine artist professionals.

The festival also includes a children’s entertainment area, student artwork display, GBAI Member Art Show/Sale, a variety of food vendors, plus music and entertainment, including Sweet Prospects Celtic Band, McGuire’s Pipe Band, Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Co, and Oriole Beach 5th Grade Chorus.


Community garden event rescheduled for March 30

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:03am

MARY ESTHER — After being rained out on March 16, the Mary Esther Community Garden (Sunday in the Park) event has been rescheduled for March 30.

"Grow Green" Sunday in the Park will be 1-3p.m. at Springdale Park.

There will be plants for sale/donation, kids programs on growing vegetables and flowers, farm's market, and education booths on gardening.

Become a member of the Community Garden. Call Ruth Sykes at 865-7590.

Burger Throwdown part of 3-day celebration

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:01am

MIRAMAR BEACH — Bay Breeze Patio is celebrating its 10th year serving the Emerald Coast with a three-day anniversary event March 28-30.

Each day will feature special activities, including grilling demonstrations and tastings, outdoor fireplace and log demonstrations, outdoor living experts, door prizes and more.

The festivities begin at 10 a.m. on Friday with representatives providing demonstrations and answering questions.

On Saturday at noon, representatives with the Big Green Egg will host a cooking class. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Bay Breeze Patio will host a “Burger Throwdown” cooking competition among representatives.

On Sunday, the celebration continues with grill demonstrations, tastings and special savings. The anniversary event will take place rain or shine at Bay Breeze Patio in Miramar Beach, 32 Forest Shore Drive.

Call 269-4666 or visit

South Walton Rotary presents Death by Chocolate

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 10:00am

MIRAMAR BEACH — South Walton Rotary presents Death by Chocolate – an evening of indulgence, 6-9 p.m. March 29.

In Grand Boulevard between Tommy Bahamas and Cantina Laredo, local guest chefs will prepare and serve signature chocolate desserts.

The same desserts will also be entered into a “Throwdown Competition” judged by food critics Susan Benton of 30-A Eats and Colleen Sachs of the Northwest Florida Daily News for the top Death by Chocolate Desert.

It’s $20 for admission and $30 tickets include two drink tickets. Cash bar for beer and wine will also be available.

There will be a silent auction. Advance tickets may be purchased online at

NHS Jazz Band dinner set for April 4

NICEVILLE — The 11th Annual Niceville High School Jazz Band Dinner and Silent Auction, featuring top tuba artist Joe Murphy, is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 4 at the Niceville United Methodist Church CLC.

The silent auction begins at 6 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres served.

Enjoy an entertaining evening of music performed by NHS Big Band and Jazz II with a meal catered by Chef Meghan and her staff at the UMC.

Tickets are $35 with reserved tables of eight $325. Reservations can be made by contacting Cece Sutton at or Melody Coon at Reservations must be made and paid for by March 27.

Allman concert May 28 at Gulf Place; tickets on sale now

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer Gregg Allman is bringing his distinctive Southern rock and blues sound to the Emerald Coast this Memorial Week holiday.

Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and a storied solo-performer will headline at the Green @ Gulf Place on May 28 before an expected sell-out crowd of 4,500 fans.

Tickets are on sale now at select local retail stores along 30A including Central Square Records in Seaside and online at General admission is $95; gold VIP is $135.

Georgia-based Allman is listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the “100 greatest singers of all time,” has had seven solo chart-topping albums over a 40-plus year career, including his 2011 Grammy nominated-album, “Low Country Blues.”

But despite a lifetime of touring, this will be Allman’s first time performing on the shores of South Walton.

“We are excited and privileged to have Gregg Allman join us at The Green @ Gulf Place for this Memorial Week Concert,” said venue director Jon Brooks. “Gregg has one of the most distinctive voices and musical styles in the world — complete with a remarkable lifetime catalogue of original songs.”

The Green @ Gulf Place has quickly become a favorite for music lovers on the Florida coast hosting weekend concerts during summer, the largest venue of the annual 30A Songwriter Festival and was the original home of the Seabreeze Jazz Festival.

“It will be a special night in South Walton for music fans of all ages to listen to a true legend perform here in our own community,” said Gulf Place owner, John Gaston. “We look forward to delivering great entertainment to local residents and visitors alike, and know the thousands of Gregg Allman fans in North Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia will be as excited as I am to see a music icon perform here on 30A and the Emerald Coast.”

It's osprey nesting season: Do not disturb (PHOTOS)

Northwest Florida Daily News - Outdoors - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 3:57pm
For much of the year one of nature’s most attractive, interesting and effective predators quietly coexists with mankind on the Emerald Coast.

No rest for the weary on commercial fishing boat

Northwest Florida Daily News - Outdoors - Sat, 03/22/2014 - 2:39pm
The morning after on the Evening Star is marked with heaps of blood-tinged ice and buckets of bright dead fish.
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