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?


Thomas Drive CRA Update

The Thomas Drive CRA is rounding the final corner of construction.  This CRA has been really huge and is on schedule to be complete January 2012.  Construction began September 2009.  The CRA is responsible for upgrading our road infrastructure and has been successful in beautifying main corridors over the last few years.

Past CRA projects include R Jackson Blvd (Beckrich) and Churchwell Road

Improvements to the road, broken down by area

Front Beach Rd Middle Beach Rd, N Thomas Dr Intersection

  • They will completely redo the whole intersection, traffic lights and all
  • The new intersection will have an emphasis on pedestrian friendliness
    • They will redo some of the existing pedestrian islands
    • An additional pedestrian island will be added by Backyard Burger
    • Existing pedestrian islands will be beautified
  • The famous dedicated right turn lane from west-bound Front Beach Road that turns onto Middle Beach will be done away with, median curb and all
    • But, that lane will still be a turn only lane, just not dedicated
    • Actually, they will ad an additional right turn lane making the total number of right turn lanes from Front Beach to Middle Beach TWO
  • The right turn from North Thomas Drive onto Front Beach Road (by the Ripley’s museum) will be pulled back to make it a larger radius.
  • Pedestrian walkways will be very clearly marked
  • All utilities will be moved underground
  • Sidewalks will be installed
  • Street lamps will be installed
  • Landscaping

The Circle K Intersection of Front Beach Road

  • The plans include a dedicated Tram lane for the multi-model transportation device
  • Of course, all utilities will be moved underground
  • Sidewalks will be installed
  • Landscaping will be installed
  • There will be clearly marked crossing areas with pedestrian medians
  • There will be periodic cut-outs for the Tram loading and unloading stops

South Thomas Drive, North Thomas Drive Intersection

  • Located right by Alvin’s Island
  • Large retention pond and a cut through roadway behind Alvin’s
  • The retention pond will be designed to be a beautiful amenity
    • Sidewalks all around with sitting areas
    • Landscaped and lighted
    • It looks as thought there may be a little roadside parking for those that may want to enjoy
  • The roadway cut through will ease traffic onto North Thomas Drive
    • Intersection will be “signalized”
    • The main intersection will be moved from south of Alvin’s Island, to just north and behind it.
    • There will be a little right off-shoot to cover access still to boardwalk and the other “local” businesses.
    • The new intersection will have pedestrian walkways clearly marked
  • Alvin’s Island will actually be a little “island” surrounded by roadways

Retention Pond behind McDonalds

  • The retention pond will be large and considered and “amenity”
  • There will be paved walking paths around the pond
  • Landscaping and lighting around the pond
Current status of the project broken down by area

South Thomas Drive

  • Curbing is complete
  • Sidewalks should be installed in the next couple weeks
  • Once sidewalks are done, they’ll put down the limerock, then pave
  • All utilities are moved and operational underground
  • Paving should begin in the next couple weeks
  • Once paving is complete, they’ll shift traffic to do the other side of the road

The Circle K Intersection of Front Beach Road

  • All utilities are moved and operational underground
  • Doing night work from 8 pm to 8 am daily
  • Put much of the road work off until off season to alleviate traffic issues

South Thomas Drive, North Thomas Drive Intersection

  • All curbing work is done
  • They are ready to pave sidewalks
  • Limerock and road pavement will come next
  • Retention pond is complete
  • All utilities are underground
Photos of the project so far

Christian Music and Film Fest Schedule

The Fun Never Sets Christian Music Festival is coming up next weekend featuring artists such as Toby Mac, Third Day, and Petra.  The weekend will be filled with uplifting music, short films and good weather (hopefully).

“We are thrilled to host such talented musicians for a weekend that is inspirational and uplifting,” states Dan Rowe, president and CEO of Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The fall is a wonderful time to visit, and our gorgeous sugar-white sand beaches and emerald green waters perfectly set the stage for three days of praise, worship and reflection.”

Friday, August 26

Petra (5:45 – 6:45 p.m.) The first Christian rock band to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Petra was undoubtedly the world’s most popular band in the contemporary Christian music genre throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Having released more than 20 studio albums, Petra was the first Christian band whose memorabilia was included in the Hard Rock Café restaurant chain. Several other artists have recorded tributes to the band, including country music sensation Tim McGraw.

Matthew West (7:15 – 8:15 p.m.) The Downers Grove, Illinois native is best known for number one hits “More,” “You Are Everything,” and “The Motions.” West, who says he has plumbed the depths of his soul for sweet inspiration, released his latest album, My Own Little World, in 2010. In addition to a successful solo career, the musician has worked as a songwriter for many other well-known artists including Point of Grace, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jo Dee Messina and Rascal Flatts.

Third Day (8:45 – 10:00 p.m.) Berthed amid a storm of personal crises and tragedies of those close to them, Third Day’s steely-eyed eighth album, Wherever You Are, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel album in 2006. The Atlanta-based rockers are on a mission to convey the hope and eternity of Christ through their music, from their encouraging “Rise Up” to the inspirational “Mountain of God.”

Saturday, August 27

Jamie Grace (3:00 – 3:30 p.m.) A hybrid mix of acoustic pop, hip hop, folk, and reggae, the newest addition to the TobyMac-founded label, Gotee Records, recently released a four-song collection titled Hold Me. Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of 11, Grace, now 19, shares her story of resilience and hope through what she calls her “heart songs.”

Peter Furler (4:00 – 5:00 p.m.) Raw talent combined with hard work has produced one of Australia’s biggest exports – not just in Christian music but in every genre. One of the few Aussies who can lay claim to writing, producing and singing more than 25 number one hits including classics “He Reigns,” “Shine,” and “Something Beautiful,” Furler’s performances are notorious for being as diverse as they are divine.

Family Force 5 (5:30 – 6:30 p.m.) Often referred to as a crunk rock band, Family Force 5 mixes a diverse set of music styles including punk, rap, R & B, funk, techno pop and more with positive lyrics. The band released their first full-length album titled Business Up Front/Party in the Back in 2006 and ventured onto the popular Vans Warped Tour the following year. The album, featuring several hit singles such as “Love Addict” and “Earthquake,” was an instant hit in both the Christian and mainstream markets.

Switchfoot (7:00 – 8:15 p.m.) This well-known American rock band hailing from San Diego, California, first gained momentum in the mainstream music market when several of their songs were featured in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. The Beautiful Letdown, the band’s album released in 2003, contained their best-known singles, “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move.” With its play on words, Vice Verses, the title of Switchfoot’s newest album, coherently suggests that everything has two sides.

TobyMac (8:45 – 10:00 p.m.) TobyMac ranks among the most successful artists in Christian music history in terms of radio success, sales power and critical acclaim. His fourth studio album,

TONIGHT, was released in 2010 and centered on the belief that we all need God now – this morning, this afternoon, tonight. The songs on the album are typical TobyMac in many ways – an eclectic mix of rap, rock, pop and funk, all laden with catchy hooks and melodies just itching for airplay and audience singalongs.

Sunday, August 28

On Sunday at 10:00 a.m., Christian rock band DecembeRadio will lead a morning worship service to conclude a weekend of fellowship. Known for such musical hits as “Dangerous” and “Drifter,” DecembeRadio will delight fans with a short concert following the worship service. Tickets are not required for Sunday’s service or concert.

Photo from the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

2nd Annual Women’s Work-Life Symposium

The 2nd Annual Women’s Work-Life Symposium is coming up in September and is being held at the FSU-PC Holley Academic Center.  Last year’s event was an enormous success and a huge buzz generator.  This year’s event is looking to be even better.

About the event

This day-long event will focus on helping women find practical solutions and strategies for creating a work-life balance.  The Symposium will present productive sessions with top-notch, motivating speakers all offering insight, inspiration and innovative ideas.

Attendees will be able to take part in:

  • Keynote sessions
  • Breakout workshops
  • A networking breakfast
  • Buffet lunch
  • Mix & Mingle wine reception following the Symposium

A special Exhibitor Showcase will stay open throughout the day featuring products and services relevant to professional women seeking a healthy work-life balance.  There will also be drawings, giveaways and Symposium Goody Bags.

Date and time

Friday, September 23rd, 2011 from 8 am to 5 pm

Location: FSU-PC Holley Academic Center

Special Presentation by Dr. Tererai Trent

Quoted as being Oprah Winfrey’s “favorite guest of all time,” her captivating presentation is a moving message of empowerment and change.  In it, she will share her experiences of growing up in rural Africa, overcoming humble beginnings to achieve her dreams and give back to others.

In May 2011 Oprah Winfrey stated, “[Tererai Trent] symbolizes everything I believe the Oprah Show stands for… her story encapsulates the essence of every lesson we’ve shared over the past 25 years: hope, your thoughts create your reality, gratitude, it doesn’t matter where you come from.  She proves you can keep reaching for your dreams, that one person can make a difference in the world—and above all, you have the power.”

Ticket information

Tickets are now on sale; Early Bird Registration lasts thru September 9 and tickets are $89 per person.  After September 9 tickets cost $99 per person.