By Jan Boston Sellers
Florida’s best kept secret is out. I have been vacationing on the Panhandle in Destin, FL, for more than two decades. I was drawn to it by the sugary white sand, aquamarine waters and close proximity. We can leave our house before breakfast and be there by dinner time.
When I started going there in the late 1980s, Destin was much, much smaller than it is today. Nestled between Fort Walton Beach and Seaside, an architecturally planned community off Hwy. 30A, there wasn’t a lot of other places in between. It has since morphed into one of the busiest areas in Florida today. Now, not only has Destin exploded, other communities have begun to crop up as well: WaterColor and Rosemary, Grayton and Alys beaches to name a few.
One evening as we were returning from dinner, I perused the license plates on the vehicles and was astounded by what I found: a car sporting tags from almost every state in the country sans Hawaii and Alaska. The tags read Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, all in just one line of parking. In early Destin days, most of the vacationers were from nearby states, but the Panhandle has now become a must see for lots of Americans. Matter of fact, even celebrities Tom Cruise, Brittney Spears and Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten all own homes in the area.
But I digress. This column wasn’t to be as much about Destin as it was to be about the way beaches in general have changed over the past 20 or so years. For example, when I first started going to Destin, beach goers wore tanning lotions. Now, most wear broad spectrum sunscreens, getting tanned slower and with less burning.
Beaches are musically quieter now. It used to be a battle of the bands as individuals and families carried their radios and/or boom boxes to the beach and played their favorite genre of music. You may have heard country on your left side, pop on the right and alternative in front of you. Now, everyone has their own iPod or MP3 player, and most days you don’t hear music at all. That is, unless someone — okay, maybe I — forgot their iPod and had to buy a radio to play while on the beach.
As an avid reader, one of my favorite things to do was see what everyone was reading while sitting on the beach. Now, that is virtually impossible due to electronic readers. Everyone has an iPad, Kindle or Nook loaded with their favorite books, rendering sneaking a peek at their title difficult.
Cellular phones have, of course, generated a seismic shift in beach conversations. Prior to their wide range usage, you had to wait until you were inside to make a call. This past week, I unwillingly heard numerous “private” conversations, some of which probably shouldn’t have been conducted in public.
Before the onslaught of public health information regarding sun damage and skin cancer, I seldom saw anyone sitting under an umbrella on the beach. If you looked to your right or left, you may see a colorful umbrella stuck randomly in the sand. Now, thanks to warnings about too much sun exposure, the number of sun blocking canopies has more than doubled.
Changes or not, there are very few places I would rather be than sitting on the white sand with a good book, some tunes and a diet soft drink... even if finding the perfect spot is more difficult to do.
A couple of noteworthy happenings this weekend in Crossville and Cumberland County:
The Avalon Center and 5K Race and one mile walk/fun run is slated for Saturday morning at Stone Memorial High School. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. Call Avalon at 456-0747 for more information.
Cumberland County’s Walks-A-Lot program will kick off Saturday as well. It will begin at 10 a.m. at Centennial Park, 837 Industrial Blvd. Organizers say there will be prizes, gift cards, walking shoes and entertainment provided by the Special Delivery Band. If you want more information on this happening, call 707-2554.
If you are in the Fairfield Glade area, you may want to stop by the annual Kids Day from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Food City. Admission is free and includes games, crafts, face painting, a slide, concession stand and more. Call Rachel or Allen for more information at 707-9423.
A free open air concert is slated for Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Spirit Broadband Amphitheatre. The public is invited to bring a chair, blanket, picnic, family and friends to enjoy some outdoor music. This is sponsored by the Art Circle Public Library.
The seventh annual Cumberland County Open Walking Horse Show is also this Saturday, June 8, at the fairgrounds. There are 28 classes with each trophies and ribbons awarded in each class. This event is being presented by the American Cancer Society and is affiliated with S.H.O.W.
You can take a trip by nature’s “ farmacy" by visiting the Farmers Market for fresh produce, baked goods, eggs, flowers, fruits and honey. It is open each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6 a.m. until noon at 1398 Livingston Rd. near the fairgrounds.