Panama City Beach Festival of the Arts

Coming up on September 17th from 10 am to 6 pm, the Palms Conference Center is hosting the Festival of the Arts, an arts and crafts show and sale. The event will include paintings of all types, sculptures, varying types of crafts that can include wood workings, puzzles, jewelry and more.

Event Details

The event is located at the Palms Conference Center located in east Panama City Beach.  The conference center is right down the street from Wonderworks and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

The address:

Palms Conference Center
9104 Front Beach Road
Panama City Beach, FL 32407

Click here for a map.

Some of the things you can expect to see at the festival
How to become a vendor

If you’re interested in having your arts or crafts displayed at this event, becoming a vendor is easy.  Just go to their website and download the Vendor application, linked to on the left of their site.

Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater Construction Schedule

The projected improvements to Aaron Bessant Park have been quite a hot topic lately with many energetically arguing for and against it.  The public workshop is this Wednesday evening and a lively workshop its expected to be!

The city has released the projected construction schedule, which is not final, but intended to be used to map out the process of building the improvements.

The schedule


  • Week 3 – Technical specifications
  • Week 4 – Draft RFQ and sound check site
  • Week 5 – Workshop: Design parameters


  • Week 6 – Advertise RFQ: Design/Build
  • Week 7 – Geotechnical released
  • Week 8 – Refine Design parameters
  • Week 9 – Addendum


  • Week 10 – RFQ Due Design/Build
  • Week 11 – Award Contract: Design/Build
  • Week 12 – Work shop: Design
  • Week 13 – Submit to FCT


  • Week 15 – Site/Structural Plans
  • Week 16 – Site Construction Start
  • Week 17 – Order Steel
  • Week 18 – Permit Set Complete


  • Week 19 – Building Construction Start
  • Week 20 – Underground work
  • Week 21 – Slab on Grade


  • Week 24 – Walls to roof structure
  • Week 26 – Roof Structure


  • Week 28 – MEP installation


  • Week 32 – Finish work
  • Week 35 – Certificate of occupancy


  • Week 36 – Punch list
  • Week 37 – Seabreeze Jazz Festival

Pier vs Pier Weekly Fishing Tournaments [Weekly Prizes]

To showcase the world-class fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach is luring avid anglers with weekend-long fishing tournaments this fall. Running from Sept. 23 to Nov. 13, the City Pier vs. County Pier Challenge guarantees a prize purse totaling more than $10,000.

The M.B. Miller Pier (County Pier) and the Russell-Fields Pier (City Pier) are twin piers, both of which are prized as prime fishing spots for anglers of all ages.  Extending more than 1,500 feet into the calm waters, the piers are two of the longest on the Gulf Coast. All visitors have the opportunity to cast a line for a local catch, with rod rentals and tackle available on site.

Tournament info

Each weekend during the contest, on Friday through Sunday, fishermen and women of all levels are invited to compete in the challenge.  There are four categories

  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Flounder
  • King Mackerel
  • Pompano

Every weekend, participants can win a top prize of $150 for each species, with a total of $1200 in prizes awarded. A $250 prize will be awarded for the heaviest catch of the entire challenge. Kids are welcome to participate in the Children’s Division tournaments, open to anglers 12 and under. Winners of the Children’s Division will receive rod and reel prizes.

Weigh-ins will take place at each pier and the winner will be announced on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Best of all, there is no entry fee required for the tournaments.


Aaron Bessant Park Improvements Workshop Date Set

In a city commission meeting yesterday, a date for the first public workshop was set to discuss the improvements slated to be made to Aaron Bessant Park in Panama City Beach.  The park improvements were voted on and approved to begin planning at the last commission meeting.  Originally, three members of the commission voted for and two members voted against the improvements.  The tension from the disagreement seemed to be present at yesterday’s meeting.

An accelerated schedule

Panama City Beach City Manager Richard Jackson presented what was later dubbed an “accelerated schedule” for project construction and completion.  The schedule included awarding the construction contract in October and beginning development in November.  The goal, in the schedule, is to be complete and ready for the Seabreeze Jazz Festival in April.

Details about the park improvements
  • 60′x40′ amphitheater with permanent roof and walls suitable for theatrical productions, orchestral performances and musical events
  • Expanded amphitheater lawn area (see diagram below
  • Vegetative buffers around the parameter to prevent the need for temporary fencing
  • The Festival Lawn (the sandy area that’s used as overflow and vedor parking behind the park) will be improved to the quality of Frank Brown Park’s festival area
  • This area will support parking, play fields, and will have sod and irrigation
  • Additional bathroom facilities
Information about the public workshop

The public workshop is an opportunity for your voice to be heard.  The intention is to hear feedback from community residents and interested parties to get feedback on the project, it’s future use, implementation and development.  I would urge anyone that is planning on going, not to go with the intention of stopping this project.  The point is to get public feedback, and if you come with your argumentative hat on, your input will be difficult to hear.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday August 31, 2011 at 6 pm.

The issues on the agenda to discuss at the workshop:

These are bullet points provided from Panama City Beach City Manager Richard Jackson.

  • FCT (Florida Communities Trust) Management plan and their view of “passive park”
  • Parking
  • Access
  • Soccer fields
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Long term maintenance responsibility and cost
  • Environmental respect for Lullwater Lake (wetland)
  • Sound attenuation
  • Operational Standards
  • Traffic
  • Pedestrian access
  • Lighting

I have an opinion on this development, as well as the new Walmart development, as I know many of our readers do.  You can read it here.

Aaron Bessant Park, Walmart [OPINION]

The development of a new Walmart next to Pier Park and the talk of improvements to the performance infrastructure at Aaron Bessant Park have brought  some strong opinions for both sides of the argument.  Some agree, some don’t.

One of the arguments that seems to be consistent is that we don’t need more traffic in that area.  Based on conversations with city officials, planners and the TDC, the purpose of the Aaron Bessant Park improvements isn’t to necessarily increase the per-event occupancy, but rather increase the comfort by which events can set up and decrease the cost it takes to erect the staging.

And, Walmart coming here isn’t really a matter of government decision, it’s a private industry matter.

The issue of occupancy of Aaron Bessant Park

The improvements will increase the per-event occupancy to 10,000, up from 7,500, but this doesn’t mean that every event will have 10,000 attendees there.  Sure, some events will, ideally, they all would (more people at the event means more money for Panama City Beach), but most probably won’t.  In addition, don’t think that 10,000 people will mean 10,000 cars.  Studies have shown that on average, events like these bring 5 people per car to the event.  So, with that figure in mind, the parking spaces at Pier Park and the additional parking that will be provided in the western improvements should suffice.

The issue of traffic in the Pier Park area

Where we stand today, infrastructure improvements will need to be made to handle traffic in this area.  When the new Walmart is done, and tourism numbers are up, traffic along this corridor will increase.  However, at this time, plans to signalize Powell Adams Road are in place (look for this in the next 12 to 18 months) and three-laning this whole stretch of road will likely happen within 24 months, which will help.

The reality is, people want to come here because it’s paradise.  Businesses want to come here because people want to come here, and growth will happen, whether you want it to or not.

The question is not IF we’ll grow on this end of the beach, but rather HOW we’ll grow.  It’s up to members of the Panama City Beach community to help the city commissioners make right decisions in our path of growth so that 15 years down the road, we’re not looking back going, “that was a dumb decision,” or “why didn’t we do it like that?”

The issue of noise from Aaron Bessant Park

Many residents are concerned about the noise that will come from events at this new facility.  I totally understand this concern.  But, there will not be any more noise then what was already there during past events.  During any large event held at Aaron Bessant Park, the music can be heard from many of the condos and homes within a mile radius of the park.  If anything, I would think the improvements would cut some of that noise down as it is being discussed to build the structure out of concrete block.  This should insulate the sound projection to the south.

And again, the music projection from these new improvements would only be during events, which are not necessarily every weekend.


Sheltair Opens FBO at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport

This summer, Sheltair opened it’s FBO (short for fixed base operations) at the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  They are the only FBO at the new airport, and they also operated an FBO at the old Panama City Airport (PFN).

“We are so thrilled to have opened our beautiful, new facility in order to better serve our based, as well as transient customers in the Florida panhandle,” said Danny Walsh, Vice President of Aviation at Sheltair, “This location is truly one of the flagship FBO’s in our network and will now be a gateway for many to some of the most gorgeous beaches and scenery that this state has to offer.”

What is an FBO

An FBO is a Fixed Base Operator that provides aeronautical services at commercial airports.  The Federal Aviation Administration defines an FBO as A commercial business granted the right by the airport sponsor to operate on an airport and provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, etc..

In other words, if you’re a private pilot or a member of the general aviation community, you would use this new facility to come and go from the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

About the new facility

Sheltair had been operating at the new Panama City Beach airport out of a temporary space on the airfield, but they just moved into their new 5,000 square foot facility end of July.  The building was build to LEED Certification standards and is currently in the approval process with the U.S. Green Building Council.

Some of the amenities at the new facility include:

  • Spacious passenger lobby
  • Conference room
  • Pilots lounge
  • Flight planning and weather room
  • Complimentary interior cleaning
  • Catering
  • Crew cars
  • Cafeteria/vending area
  • Complimentary refreshments/snacks
  • Wireless Internet

In addition to the main building, Sheltair also offers 1,680 square feet of office rental space and a 9,100 square foot hangar that’s available for lease.

For more information about Sheltair, visit

More pictures

New Airport’s Average Flight is 39% Less

One of the big things supporters wanted out of the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport was lower fares.  And lower fares we received.  The average per ticket fare at the old airport (PFN) was a whopping $583.  The average per ticket fare at the new airport (ECP) is $354.  Of course, that’s not to say, if you keep an eye on the deals you can’t find one of Southwest’s famous $50 trips.

ECP Airfare Costs Comparison

Before the new airport, Panama City’s airfare costs were second to the highest in the state of Florida.  Now we fall right in the middle.

Average Airfare 2009

Airport Code Airport Average Fare
MCO Orlando International 232.82
FLL Fort Lauderdale International 235.19
TPA Tampa International 261.58
JAX Jacksonville International 282.04
PNS Pensacola Regional 379.20
TLH Tallahassee Regional 411.55
VPS Northwest Florida Regional 505.66
PFN Panama City-Bay County International 583.44
DHN Dothan Regional 769.35

Average Airfare 2010

Airport Code Airport Average Fare
MCO Orlando International 245.48
FLL Fort Lauderdale International 247.05
TPA Tampa International 284.50
JAX Jacksonville International 306.94
ECP Northwest Florida Beaches International 354.89
PNS Pensacola Regional 375.26
TLH Tallahassee Regional 457.31
VPS Northwest Florida Regional 496.58
PFN Panama City-Bay County International 579.71
DHN Dothan Regional 753.86
Current Traffic and Future Forecasts

In addition to lower fares, traffic is way up as well.  On average, the new airport is passing almost triple the number of people the old airport did consistently each month.  Here’s a snapshot of some of the existing numbers and future projections of passenger traffic growth.

Year Passengers Percent Change
2009 312,540
2010 649,018 107.7%
2011 858,931 32.3%
2012 916,800 6.7%
2013 948,888 3.5%

2009 market share for our airport was a measly 9.1%.  Current market share for the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport has more than doubled to 22.1%.

Airport Passengers Market Share
Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional 627,053 38.8%
Northwest Florida Regional 382,715 23.7%
Northwest Florida Beaches International 345,231 21.3%
Tallahassee Regional 261,878 16.2%
Total 1,616,877 100.0%


Total number of flights

8 SWA departures and arrivals – 16 total flights – 7,657 seats per week

10 Delta departures and arrivals – 20 total flights – 5,135 seats per week

Thoughts, comments?

What are your thoughts on the new airport.  Have you flown out of it?  What are your impressions on it?  Was your fare lower?