Wayside Park was a popular beach hangout for young people from the 1950s to the ‘80s. Today, the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk, full of restaurants and shops, sits where Wayside Park was once located.
Jan Zlata, a 1974 graduate of Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach, has organized reunions of the folks who spent time at the park in their younger days. The most recent one took place June 24 at KC’s Sandbar in downtown Fort Walton Beach.
“People flew and drove in for the reunion from all over the country,” says Zlata. “There were well over 300 people in attendance.” Local businesses donated almost $6,000 in prizes that were given away during the event. Zlata also made photo albums with pictures from the past, many of which came from the popular Fort Walton Beach—What We Did Facebook group.
“People would come up to me repeatedly and tell me they missed the small town community feeling that we all grew up with here in Fort Walton Beach,” says Zlata. “Those who attended the reunion told me they saw people they had not seen in 30 or 40 years. I will continue to do the reunions every year.”