By Joni Williams
If you think all the good stuff happens here in the peak season of summer, think again. Fall means festivals, and we’ve got all the deets on 10 of the best right here.
FWB BBQ FESTIVAL
When: Sept. 16 and 17. Friday, 4-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: The Landing, Fort Walton Beach.
What It Is: Live music, Props Brewery beer, mucho smoky food and competitions. Sponsored by Okaloosa Gas and presented by the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Cool Factor: The Beer Olympics. For a fee, attendees can become drinking spectators. That’s spectator, not spectacle, Ryan Lochte.
BARBERSHOP HARMONY FESTIVAL
When: Sept. 24, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: 2401 N. Partin Drive, Niceville.
What It Is: Performers from Mobile to Tallahassee converge on the Boggy Bayou to showcase their talent. Hosted by the Emerald Coast Chorus of Fort Walton Beach.
Cool Factor: What would you think if they sang out of tune? Lend them your ears as they try not to sing out of key, and… well, at least you’ll finally have the answer to the Beatles’ eternal question.
BLOODY MARY FESTIVAL
When: Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: The Market Shops, Miramar Beach.
Admission: $35 in advance, $50 day of.
What It Is: A Bloody Mary tasting and competition benefiting Sinfonia Gulf Coast aims to find “the best Bloody Mary in South Walton.” The event also offers a mimosa bar and Grayton Beer.
Cool Factor: This isn’t just idle midday partying, it’s research. After all, somebody’s got to test all those different Bloody Mary recipes. It might as well be you
DESTIN SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
When: Sept. 30 (4-10 p.m.), Oct. 1 (10 a.m.-10 p.m.) and Oct. 2 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.).
Where: The Destin Harbor Boardwalk, HarborWalk Village.
Admission: FREE, but will accept donations.
What It Is: Music, shopping, activities, beer and—of course—plenty of seafood, set on the gorgeous Destin Harbor.
Cool Factor: Even after 38 years, the heart of the festival, like Destin itself, is all about seafood and the good folks who haul it in from the Gulf. And that’s a very cool thing indeed.
EMERALD COAST CON
When: Oct. 8 (10 a.m.-9 p.m.) and 9 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.).
Where: Emerald Coast Convention Center, Okaloosa Island.
What It Is: Tournaments, exhibits and live music for lovers of gaming, anime, science fiction and pop culture.
Cool Factor: Promising some 25 games, EmCon’s “retro console” will unleash your inner child—the same one that used a TV instead of the Internet to play Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox. Hello, Happy Place!
CHAUTAUQUA WINERY’S HARVEST FESTIVAL
When: Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Chautauqua Vineyard & Winery, DeFuniak Springs.
What It Is: Wine tasting for grown-ups and fun things to do for the kiddos.
Cool Factor: With free wine samples, how can you not have a grape time?
BAYTOWNE WHARF BEER FEST
When: Oct. 14 and 15.
Where: The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin.
Admission: $30 in advance, $35 day of.
What It Is: Live music, food and about 200 different brews, all yours for the sampling.
Cool Factor: And you thought 99 beers on the wall was a lot?
BOGGY BAYOU MULLET FESTIVAL
When: Oct. 21, 22 and 23.
Where: Mullet Festival Grounds, Niceville.
Admission: To be announced, but typically $10-15 per day.
What it is: Live music, carnival rides, food, crafts and a beer booth. This year’s line-up includes Chase Bryant, Justin Moore and Joe Diffie.
Cool Factor: Thought the mullet was only a bad haircut? You’ll be pleased to know it’s also a locally caught fish, served fried or smoked.
When: Nov. 11, 12 and 13.
Where: Emerald Coast Convention Center, Okaloosa Island.
Admission: $10-20 per day, $30 for the weekend. Group discounts available.
What It Is: Anime convention run “by the fans, for the fans.” Plus cosplay, exhibitions, handcrafted items, trivia contests, standup comedy, music and fan-run panels.
Cool Factor: Cosplay, ‘cos for some of us, Halloween just doesn’t come around often enough.
BLUE ANGELS 70TH ANNIVERSARY HOMECOMING AIR SHOW
When: Nov. 11 and 12.
Where: Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola.
What It Is: Seriously, you have to ask? It’s the world-renowned Blue Angels, for crying out loud.
Cool Factor: Look up to the heavens in the days preceding the official show and chances are you’ll see those daring young men in their flying machines, practicing stunts, formations and maneuvers.
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