DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Organizers and city leaders are anticipating large crowds for the return of the Destin Seafood Festival from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9.

Following a two-year hiatus, the event is back for the 44th annual Seafood Festival on the Destin Harbor.

“For our planning as well as the Community, it’s been nothing but overwhelmingly positive vibes. Everybody is very excited to get back to festival season and especially the Destin Seafood Festival,” said organizer Cali Hlavak. “With this being such a staple in the community over the last 44 years, I know that people are very excited to return and we’ve got the same, but better.”

The festival features food vendors across the emerald coast set up near the docks of the harbor each day. Art and other vendors will be lined along the Harborwalk Village for all to enjoy.

Event Schedule:

  • Friday October 7 | 4pm-10pm
  • Saturday October 8 | 10am-10pm
  • Sunday October 9 | 10am-6pm

The event tags on to the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo. Hlavak said the seafood festival will create a bigger buzz and crowd for the daily weigh-ins behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

What about parking?

“In terms of parking, there are public lots,” said Hlavak. “There’s a great one over Heron Harbor which is right next to Harbor Tavern. There’s the Marler parking lot across the street from the harbor. That’s a great one. There is a map on our website and our Facebook page detailing where you can park. And we’re also running a transit shuttle from the Morgan Sports Complex so you can park over there and ride the shuttle over here if you don’t want to deal with having to park anywhere on the harbor.”

New this year is the Call to Chef culinary experience.

“So the Call to Chef is 10 local restaurants and chefs competing against each other for the best appetizers, soups, and salads, as well as entrees and desserts,” said Hlavak. “So it’s more than just seafood, although that is the bulk of what’s happening inside the festival. Think of it as a VIP area going to be gated off in the parking lot. The chef will be set up to prepare all of your dishes on both Saturday and Sunday, October 8th and 9th. There are 2 categories each day, so 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM is appetizers, soups, and salads. Then 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM is entrees and dessert.”

Tickets for the culinary experience are found online and start at $50 for the pre-party Friday night. A purchased wristband will allow you to come and go as you please. The VIP gated area will have private bathrooms, a cash bar, live music, as well as a TV playing football games.

The seafood festival is a long-standing tradition in the young town. Organizers said in 44 years, the message behind the event has stayed the same.

“The Destin Seafood Festival is actually a fundraiser. And so the proceeds over the last 44 years have been donated to the Destin Charter Boat Association and they worked to manage our fisheries. So Destin being a little fishing village and that’s what our culture and our history has been built on, it’s really important that we stay on top of that and managing that,” said Hlavak. “So when you say it’s a staple of the community, a lot of these businesses and vendors want to participate and donate their money to buy booths or as a sponsor because they know that it gives back to the community in a great way.”

Groups benefitting from this year’s festival include the Destin Charter Boat Association, Destin High School, and the Destin History and Fishing Museum.