Latest Area News

Toe Jam 2 concert Aug. 27 in FWB

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:27am

FORT WALTON BEACH - Highway 98 Country Presents: Toe Jam 2 on Aug. 27 at The Swamp on Okaloosa Island.

Toe Jam is a fun, intimate, acoustic concert featuring four artists on stage at the same time.

They trade songs and stories in a campfire like atmosphere. They are: Bridgette Tatum, songwriter behind Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country”; Bucky Covington, “American Idol” finalist with several Top 10 hits; Keith Anderson, hits include “Pickin’ Wildflowers” and “I Still Miss You” and Ray Scott, a fan favorite with songs like “Those Jeans” and the new hit “Drinkin’ Beer.” Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets on sale at

Amavida provides refreshing stop in Seaside

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:48am

Amavida has three locations in Northwest Florida. I visited the Seaside location on a recent Saturday and it was hopping. Both blended concoctions and burritos were flying out the doors as my guest and I enjoyed our lunch.

The food
Amavida, which is a mash-up of the Spanish words for love and life, is known for serving organic and free-trade specialty coffee.

The Seaside location also serves a menu of authentic Latin American food.

My friend and I ordered frozen drinks on this 90-plus degree afternoon. My friend ordered a white mocha frozen coffee while I chose the vanilla bean cream.

For lunch I chose the La Reina arepa, or corn cakes stuffed with chunky chicken and avocado salad. My friend went for the El Reggaeton empanada, which comes stuffed with two cheeses.

Our drinks were done before our food, so we cooled off with those as we waited for the chef to prepare our food. We were told the oven had been acting up, and it might take a while to cook the empanada.

My arepa came out and it was a light corn cake filled with what looked like an avocado, chicken salad. In fact, this is what it was.

It was far more light and refreshing than I’d expected. I was expecting something deep fried and greasy, but this was the opposite. It felt very clean to eat it.

Sadly, my friend’s empanada burnt up in the oven. The chef came out and offered to make her tacos. My friend chose the chicken tacos.

Her tacos came pretty fast, and the chef gave her an extra taco and a free drink coupon for being a good sport.

In the end, we thought the arepas were the best thing we ate.

I grabbed a Rice Krispie treat to go and wished there were refills on that frozen vanilla bean cream, which was subtlely sweet.

Seaside’s Amavida Café also serves an arepa stuffed with shredded beef, black beans and cheese. They also have a beef, carrot and potato empanada as well as burritos, enchiladas, a tamale and a torta.

They also have a fridge with an assortment of cold drinks including beer.

Coffee drinks run the usual spectrum, but I’ll tell you I had a vanilla bean cream at a major chain and it was not as good as the one at Amavida.

The atmosphere
This is your typical coffee shop vibe with hip baristas running the blenders and foaming up some froth. There are maybe two tables inside, a bar along the wall and more tables outside.

The service
I have to say our experience would have been disastrous had it not been for the wonderful service. The chef and the baristas were considerate that my friend couldn’t have what she’d ordered and they made it right.

A final taste
Whether you’re cooling down or warming up Amavida has the fuel to get you through the day.

Quick bites

Location: 2236 E. Co Hwy 30A in Seaside

850-213-1965, ext. 2040

Hours: Seven days a week, 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Latin food: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Handicap accessibility: Poor

Kids menu: No, but there are plenty of kid-friendly items

Price range:
Arepas: $8.95

Empanadas: $6.95-$8.95

Platos Tipicos: $8.95

Taquitos: $7.50

Sides: $2.50 to $2.75

Beer: $3.50

Mattie Kelly Arts Center celebrates with record season (GALLERY)

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:07am


NICEVILLE — With 1,670,494 individuals coming through the doors over the past 17 years, you might think everyone in town is familiar with the 120,000 square-foot, multi-building, Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College.

But, the center’s new director, Jeanette Shires, says she gets both long-time and new residents every year who “drop their jaw” when they visit for the first time – not realizing the size of the cultural venue nor the sheer diversity of free and ticketed events the arts center schedules each year.

“I had a Destin businessman just last week who took a ‘selfie’ on the mainstage during a tour because he had never been in our 1,650-seat main theater,” said Shires, who took the helm of the non-profit center in 2013 following 12 years as its associate director.


This season marks the 18th anniversary of the completion and opening of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center’s mainstage theater where the touring Broadway shows are held. The massive theater, with its 10-story mainstage, first opened to the public on Jan. 27, 1997, with a sold-out performance of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to the mainstage theater familiar to most arts patrons, the Mattie Kelly Arts Center also comprises four adjoining buildings that house the music, fine arts and Humanities instructional programs of NWF State College. Included in the complex are two art galleries, the flexible Sprint Theater for college productions, a dance studio, multi-track recording studio, a recital hall, a 3,500 capacity outdoor amphitheater, the center’s signature outdoor sculpture “Seven Dancers,” and more.


This season’s attendance is expected to bring the performing arts venue nearly to the historic 2 million visitors mark, as the most extensive slate of national shows in the center’s history is on tap – 10 Broadway/Artist shows and three special national events.

Prices for national shows range from $10 to $45. Season packages for the 2014-15 Broadway/Artist Series are on sale now from the center’s box office. Individual tickets for all 13 national shows go on sale Aug. 29 by web at 5 p.m. and Sept. 2 in person or by phone.

Season packages of six or more of the 10 Broadway/Artist shows provide a 10 percent discount off each show ticket. A group discount of $5 off each individual ticket is available for groups of 10 or more. Season and group sales are available by phone or in-person only. All ticket sales are only available directly from the Mattie Kelly Arts Center box office at 729-6000 or or in-person at the box office window, located in the lobby of the mainstage theater. The season’s three Special Events – (Upright Citizens Brigade, Mike Huckabee and Cirque de la Symphonie) do not offer a discount.

Shires noted that tickets are also available now for all annual offerings of the college’s renowned Fine Arts Division.


Check out photos and more info about the season's performances. >>


See the Mattie Kelly Arts Center website at for additional Broadway season information and a listing of all upcoming events or contact the box office at 729-6000 to request emailed updates on to be sent a Season brochure. The Mattie Kelly Arts Center is at 100 College Boulevard East on the main campus of Northwest Florida State College.

Q & A with Jeanette Shires, Arts Center director

Q: How do you get hit Broadway shows to come to Niceville?

We are fortunate to have great facilities able to accommodate any touring show out of New York, and the booking companies have come to know that over the years. We also attend an annual conference to see what will be touring the Southeast and try to get on the schedule for great shows traveling the I-10 corridor. We normally are able to book big shows when they travel between larger cities such as New Orleans and Jacksonville and have an open night on their schedule. 

Q. So what are some of the most unusual facts about the Mattie Kelly Arts Center?

Well, there are lots of fun facts that most folks don’t know. Like the fact that Esther Wertheimer, the artist who created our signature “Seven Dancers” sculpture, inscribed the initials of the late Frances Smith Herron, our beloved dance instructor, somewhere on one of the dancers in the sculpture — see if you can find it. Or, that Hurricane Ivan peeled back part of the metal roof on our 10-story main theater and caused $1 million in damage. Or, that the towering arch sculpture, “The Muse,” outside our arts wing was specifically designed to naturally rust – that’s not an unintended quirk (there are three outdoor sculptures at the center — The Seven Dancers, The Muse and The Winds of Change).  We also have some friendly bats that have decided they like the courtyard, but we’re gently encouraging them to go elsewhere with bat houses and such.

Online games have me clashing and farming

One of the minor annoyances of Facebook is the constant stream of invitations to play online games from friends who already play them.

In a recent one-week period, I received nine such invites counting multiple ones for the same game and sometimes even from the same person.

Among them are: Pet Rescue Saga, Super City, Jelly Splash, Farm Heroes Saga, Candy Crush Saga, FarmVille 2, @ Hearts and Dessert Shop. (I gain 5 pounds just looking at the logo for that last one.)

I never really understood the attraction until now.

Back in May, my son, Kevin, introduced me to an online game called Clash of Clans. I’ve been playing it ever since and recently trained my first very own dragon. I know, cool, huh?

Each player has a village to build and protect. Inhabitants include builders, which cost gems to get; barbarians, goblins, archers, wizards, giants, dragons and many more that you have to “train.”

I belong to a clan co-founded by one of my son’s friends, a young man I know, too. You collect things like gold and elixir with mines and drills and by raiding other villages. Also, your clan can be in wars against other clans from all over the world.

Hence the name, Clash of Clans.

I’m not very good at the clashing part although kind and patient leaders of my clan help with suggestions. I try to make up for it by donating lots of troops to my clanmates. Of course, the game gets more difficult and complicated as you progress.

Forbes magazine recently published an article about the creators of Clash of Clans, a Finland-based company called Super Cell.

It made $839 billion last year. That’s “billion” with a “b.”

The version of the game I play is free, but I understand there’s a whole other level of players out there who spend big money on it.

One night a few weeks ago, I was watching television when a commercial came on for a game called Hay Day. I recognized the Super Cell logo and was immediately interested.

Hay Day is a kinder, gentler game than Clash of Clans.

It makes me laugh out loud sometimes — chickens wearing snorkel masks and wooly sheep sporting flower-bedecked straw hats are just two of the adorable critters who inhabit the Hay Day world.

The point of this game is to create a “dream farm” by planting crops, upgrading your silo and barn and by building such useful items as an oven, a giant sewing machine and a popcorn popper.

A dairy processes milk collected from your cows and goats into cheese, butter and cream.

You sell things to visitors to your farm and to other farmers, also from all over the world, to earn gold coins, vouchers and diamonds. You’re even encouraged to help other farmers by watering their plants and filling orders for items they don’t have.

I’m trying to earn enough gold coins to either repair the railroad or buy an ice cream maker. Decisions, decisions.

The game is lots of fun but can also be frustrating. For example, you might need three more bolts to upgrade your barn and all you can find is duct tape.

(How some farmers acquire dozens of these rare items and put them up for sale in their roadside stands is a mystery.)

Or when the game sends you a visitor asking to buy a product you only seconds earlier gained access to the raw materials to make. You also fill riverboat orders and truck orders (although the game calls it a car.)

And, yes, I confess to talking Features Reporter Lauren Delgado into playing, too. Not surprisingly, she is advancing more quickly than I am.

She already has an ice cream maker and two pet kittens to keep her puppy company. I have only a puppy and covet the cute bunnies I see frolicking on other farms.

We restrict ourselves from talking about Hay Day at work. OK, we talk about it a little bit usually when the game has thrown another curveball out way, like learning to fish.

Still, it’s cute, it’s fun, it’s free ... and it’s highly addictive.

So, I get it now. But I still refuse to play Candy Crush.

'Charmed' actresses visit the Emerald Coast

By the looks of their Twitter feeds, actresses Shannen Doherty and Holly Marie Combs, former "Charmed" stars, had some fun in the Emerald Coast last weekend. The friends did the Ice Bucket Challenge at Helen Back on Okaloosa Island after the Emerald Coast Poker Run. They were also spotted at The Red Bar in Grayton Beach.

Combs and Doherty appear to be in town for their GACTV show called "Off the Map With Shannen and Holly," which is scheduled to air in 2015. In it, they will travel the country looking for "unfiltered adventure."

See more reader-submitted photos. >>

Kenny Chesney performs for the Emerald Coast

Kenny Chesney fans got a chance to see him perform on a Pensacola beach - for free.

The country music singer held a free concert at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Package in Pensacola on Aug. 16.

It was his only concert this year. 

Two Daily News readers attended and passed along their thoughts and some photos. 

"We had a fantastic time at the concert, even though it was extremely HOT!! :) Sat was my birthday so it was an extra special day for me. This is the 1st time I have been able to see Kenny Chesney and I was not disappointed!! We will definitely be there next year!!!" wrote Elizabeth Overstreet in an email. 

See the photos. >>

April Fowler had some difficulty getting onto the beach and then finding a spot in the crowd. 

More than 40,000 people attended the concert, a news release from reported. Some of the crowd came from as far away as Oregon, Ohio, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona. 

"For the first try and since it was free, I think it was cool," Fowler wrote in an email. "I hope next year they offer VIP tickets (would be nice to have VIP viewing area and air conditioned bathrooms)." 

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