Latest Area News
FREEPORT â 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 childrenâs garden, bounce house, games, face painting, and more.
Special performances throughout the day include: Seaside Neighborhood School with their robots, Freeport Elementaryâs 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 eowilsoncenter.org.
NICEVILLE â In Say the Wordâs 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 âI Write ToâŠâ 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 âWord Connections.â
Lacarbiere was awarded the âWriter of the Yearâ 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.
âWhen 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,â said Maria Schabla, founder of Say the Word. âSpoken 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.
âJohn 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 areaâ.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
DESTIN â Whatâs your favorite desert island food?
For some itâs a big, juicy hamburger, invented by â well, letâs not go there. For others itâs a tofu and veggie horror âŠ thatâs just Crazytown and we wonât go there either.
To paraphrase Shirley Jackson, no live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality â without pizza!
And thatâs where weâre going â to Vinny McGuireâs Pizza Pub.
Vinny McGuireâs 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. Vinnyâs calls it âCreate your own pizza.â The server hands you a one-page menu and a golferâs pencil, and you circle what you want, starting with the sauce. Italian, red or white sauce? ( I definitely donât 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.
Letâs start with cheese. They offer all of the standards, like mozzarella or Provolone, and a few not-so-standards, like goat cheese. Thatâs what I got on my small pie and was blown away by how rich and fatty goat cheese tastes â it might be my new favorite food Iâm not supposed to eat.
From cheese we move to fruit and veggie toppings. Again, you choose among the usual and unusual suspects â 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 â theyâre like little slices of lava in your mouth. If you donât like hot, spicy foods, avoid jalapenos.
Letâs 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 ânakedâ 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. Thatâs true of all the Vinnyâs ingredient combinations we tried (including mozzarella and Italian sausage).
The small pizzas are not that small, and the large pizzas are indeed large, so donât 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 Iâm 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 Vinnyâs spinach dip. The crispy calamari on the menu wasnât available.
The menu also lists a Greek salad and, for dessert, gelato in pistachio, mocha, chocolate and berry flavors.
It was a cool night so we ate inside, which has limited seating. In warmer weather, youâll 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 McGuireâs tradition. Each table had a candle, and the walls were festooned with funky Italian posters of American movies made in the 1960s and â70s. They were a hoot to take in.
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 McGuireâs should stick to corned-beef sandwiches are missing out â the pizza at Vinnyâs is excellent.
The crust is substantial, the toppings generous and the pie size bigger than youâd expect. Sit outside with a pub glass of their homebrewed IPA and watch the sun set over Choctawhatchee Bay.
Itâs not a desert island, but you didnât want to go there anyway, did you?
Restaurant: Vinny McGuireâs Pizza Pub
Location: 29 Harbor Blvd., Destin
Telephone: (850) 650-1234
Hours: 11 a.m. â 11 p.m. seven days per week
Handicap accessibility: good
Childrenâs menu: no
Reservations: not necessary
Pizza (small): $15
Pizza (large): $20
Pizza (naked, small): $12
Pizza (naked, large): $17
Extra toppings: $1
Greek Salad: $4.99
Payment: major credit cards
CRESTVIEW â 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 yearâs 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 â only six couples are invited each year to participate.
Piedad has also appeared on âDancing with the Starsâ and âSo You Think You Can Dance.â While cabaret is the duoâs specialty, they perform all styles of ballroom and Latin style dance.
David Colon, owner of the local Fred Astaire Dance Studio, said, âEach 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.
âDancing 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.â
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.
âThis event would make such an incredible date night for couples who are looking to do something special and fun, right here close to home,â Colon said. âEveryone will enjoy the variety of dance and music at the show, followed by tasty hors dâoeuvres and drinks at the after-party.â
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 Hospiceâs special programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
These programs include bereavement services, childrenâs 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 covenanthospice.org online.
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. Itâs 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 yearâs 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 yearâs inductees into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame: artist Bruce Helander and musician Tom Petty.
The Florida Council on Arts and Culture, of which Iâm 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 âBridge of Sand,â set on Floridaâs gulf coast and was a silver medalist in the Florida Book Awards.
Florida Book Awards went to: Nancy J. Cavanaugh, childrenâs literature, for âThis Journal Belongs to Ratchetâ; Rick Yancey, young adult, for âThe Final Descentâ; John Tkac, popular fiction, for âTalking to Waterâ; Randy Wayne White, general fiction, for âDeceivedâ; Craig Blais, poetry, for âAbout Crowsâ; Manuel A. Lopez, Spanish language, for âLos Poetas Nunca Pecan Demasiadoâ; Tom Williams, general nonfiction, for âSurrounded by Thunderâ; Henry Knight, Florida nonfiction, for âTropic of Hopes: California, Florida, and the Selling of American Paradise, 1869-1929â; and Jerald T. Milanich and Nina J. Root, visual arts, for âEnchantments: Julian Dimockâs Photographs of Southwest Florida.â
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?
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 âCoulda, Woulda, Shoulda âŠ played that part.â
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 LuPoneâs first solo performance on the Carnegie Hall stage and chronicles how she ended up there.
âThe selections are derived from a chronological history of my life in musical theater,â LuPone said. âBut 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 âotherâ character.â
The Tony award-winning LuPoneâs earliest memories of performing are not of singing or acting, but of dancing.
âI started dancing when I was 4 years old,â she said. âMy 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 thatâs where I was bit. I fell in love with the audience and never looked back.â
She credits music teacher/choral mistress Esther Scott with âabsolutely recognizingâ her potential.
âA lot happened through her, much of my inspiration. She would give me solos in the chorus,â LuPone said.
She believes the desire to perform is innate in human nature.
âI think everyone wants to be on the musical theater stage,â she said. âYou have rock and rollers writing musicals. Itâs crazy!
âSting wrote a musical. Elton John wrote a musical. Bono wrote a musical. I think Sheryl Crow is writing a musical.
âTV shows like âGleeâ and movies like âHigh School Musicalâ just threw a light on something that has always existed.â
Sinfonia Music and Artistic Director Demetrius Fuller has been working two years to get LuPone here to perform with the orchestra.
âSinfonia is honored to have multiple award-winning singer/actress Patti LuPone join us for our annual gala event,â he said.
âAside from having one of the most marvelous voices, her resilience as an artist of stage, screen and TV is incomparable to her peers.
âThere doesn't seem to be a genre that she has not conquered.â
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.
Sheâs recently had a recurring role on the hit show âGirlsâ as she has had in the past on such favorites as â30 Rock.â And she starred in âLife Goes On.â
âBeing on stage is my favorite,â she said, âbecause thatâs an actorâs medium, really. Thatâs between the actor and the audience. Thatâs the magic.â
LuPone enjoys a longtime association with playwright/director David Mamet.
âDavid and I grew up together in the business,â she said. âThereâs a deep musicality to his work. I respond to that and to his ideas even if I donât always understand them.
âI am so honored to be associated with a living playwright, and I want to work with him for the rest of my life.â
LuPone explained that âCould, Would, Shouldaâ is âalways evolving.â
âThere are always songs I wish I could have done and songs that I remember,â she said.
The list of shows represented includes âHair,â âBye, Bye Birdie,â âFunny Girl,â âWest Side Storyâ and âPeter Panâ and, of course, her Tony Award-winning performances in âEvitaâ and âGypsy.â
âWhen we do it with just piano and voice, thereâs more improvising,â she said. âWith 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.â
âCoulda, Woulda, Shoulda âŠ played that partâ 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 dâoeuvres is $125. Call 269-7129 or visit SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.
DESTIN â The First Bojamz for Planting Peace Festival will be held March 30 at Boshamps Oyster House 2â 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 BREEEZE â 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 childrenâs entertainment area, student artwork display, GBAI Member Art Show/Sale, a variety of food vendors, plus music and entertainment, including Sweet Prospects Celtic Band, McGuireâs Pipe Band, Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Co, and Oriole Beach 5th Grade Chorus.
MARY ESTHER â 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.
MIRAMAR BEACH â 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 âBurger Throwdownâ 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 baybreezepatio.com.
MIRAMAR BEACH â South Walton Rotary presents Death by Chocolate â 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 âThrowdown Competitionâ 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.
Itâs $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 swr.xorbia.com/dbc.
NICEVILLE â 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 email@example.com or Melody Coon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations must be made and paid for by March 27.
SANTA ROSA BEACH â Rock ânâ 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 GulfPlaceEvents.com. General admission is $95; gold VIP is $135.
Georgia-based Allman is listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the â100 greatest singers of all time,â has had seven solo chart-topping albums over a 40-plus year career, including his 2011 Grammy nominated-album, âLow Country Blues.â
But despite a lifetime of touring, this will be Allmanâs first time performing on the shores of South Walton.
âWe are excited and privileged to have Gregg Allman join us at The Green @ Gulf Place for this Memorial Week Concert,â said venue director Jon Brooks. âGregg has one of the most distinctive voices and musical styles in the world â complete with a remarkable lifetime catalogue of original songs.â
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.
âIt 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,â said Gulf Place owner, John Gaston. âWe 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.â