From Shelves to the Shores education program offered by Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance at area libraries

 Please join the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance at the either the Niceville Public Library, Coastal Branch Library or Destin Library to Learn about the Choctawhatchee Bay and all the animals that live there!

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) alongside NWF Environmental Stewards will kick off their “From Shelves to the Shores” Program with three community libraries—Niceville Public Library, Destin Library and the Coastal Branch Library in South Walton.

Over the next three months, CBA will host activities every other week at these libraries for children aged 4-12. The children will participate in array of activities that range from growing a native, shoreline grass to observing live animals to creating their very own oyster.

“This year we are expanding our program to include three community libraries,” said CBA’s Education Coordinator Brittany Tate, “We hope this program encourages children to fall in love with our local waters through fun, hands-on education.”

The project is free and open to the public. Children are encouraged to come to their closest library to learn something new about the Choctawhatchee Bay and the local environment.

Coastal Branch Library, 437 Greenway Trail,, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

First Thursday & Third Saturday
Thursday, Feb. 4 – 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 20 -10:30 -11:30 a.m.
Thursday, March 3 – 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 19 – 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Thursday, April 7 – 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 23 – 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Niceville Public Library, 206 Partin Dr N, Niceville, FL 32578

Second Thursday & Fourth Saturday
Thursday, Feb. 11 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27 11:00 a.m. 12:00 Noon
Thursday, March 10 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 26 1:00 a.m. 12:00 Noon
Thursday, April 14 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 30 11:00 a.m. 12:00 Noon

Destin Library, 150 Sibert Ave., Destin, FL 32541

Second Saturday & Fourth Tuesday
Saturday, Feb. 13 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Thursday, Feb. 23 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 12 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Thursday, March 29 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 9 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 19 3:30-4:30 p.m.

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Furry Fest in Santa Rosa Beach Feb. 20

unleashedAlaqua Animal Refuge and HEART Animal Rescue, two area organizations dedicated to caring and shelter for homeless animals, are happy to announce they are teaming together for the third annual Furry Fest, a fun, fund-raising effort for two and four legged friends to benefit the two 501c(3) non-profit organizations.

This free Community Festival will be held at Alaqua Unleashed Dog Park, 342 J.D. Miller Road in Santa Rosa Beach on Saturday, February 20, 2016 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and will feature live music by KC Phelps and the Screamin Fleas, food merchants, local vendors, a prize raffle, children’s activities, adoptable pets, wiener dog races (the Fast and the Furriest), dog contests and agility demonstrations, and much more.

For more information contact April Madr at [email protected].

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South Walton Rotary hosting smoked Boston Butt event in Miramar Beach Feb. 6

bostonbuttThe South Walton Rotary Club is hosting a Super Bowl grill out the Saturday before the Superbowl on Feb 6. The event will be held at from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the CVS, Chick Fil A parking lot across from Silver Sands.

The official sponsor Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ, will be slow-smoking whole Boston butts, specially ordered and cooked for the event. The Boston Butts will serve 8 people, and are the perfect staple food for your Broncos vs. Panthers Super Bowl party. We will also be grilling up other great food, so come out and grab a bite to eat!

Any proceeds raised from the event will go to benefiting local charitable missions in our community. In the past, Rotary Club of South Walton has benefited Caring & Sharing, Path of Grace, amongst other youth leadership programs and charities in the area.

Whole smoked Boston Butts $40, Half BBQ Chicken $8, Pulled pork sandwich and chips $7. Preorders available at

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Chautauqua Assembly offers free outdoor exhibits

Free exhibits along the Lakeyard include Muscogee Indian Camp, Forestry exhibit, Civil War Camp, and Plein Air Paint-Out and Art Sale.

Free exhibits along the Lakeyard include Muscogee Indian Camp, Forestry exhibit, Civil War Camp, and Plein Air Paint-Out and Art Sale.

Head over to Circle Drive and the Lakeyard in DeFuniak Springs Fri., Jan, 29 and Sat., Jan. 30 and enjoy live demonstrations and exhibits during the Chautauqua Assembly.

Civil War Camp:  Visit the men and women of The Walton Guard who will welcome you to their camp and show you their life on the battlefield during the Civil War. Then, see the great “Battle Between the States” on Saturday, 12:30 pm, and again on Sunday at 1:30 pm!  Lake Yard.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8am-5pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8am-5pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8am-3:30pm

Florida Frontiersmen Settlement Camp:  Visit a camp resembling the living conditions of an early Florida pioneer family. The outdoor exhibit is orchestrated by the Chilcutt family through their participation in the Frontiersmen Camping Fellowship (FCF).  FCF is a men to boys mentoring ministry of Royal Rangers and the Assemblies of God. The encampment is hands-on and in-use of the food, tools, weapons, crafts, and living conditions of Florida settlers from the late 1500s to the early 1900s. The encampment also has a section on the Florida Cracker Pioneers who helped settle this area.   Lake Yard.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8am-5pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8am-5pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8am-3:30pm

Plein Air Paint Out – Professional artists will be dotting the Lake Yard landscape to paint their individual conception of activities, buildings, people and whatever else they envision going on in this area.  Observe the artists at work.  Individual finished works of art will be on display in the Hall of Brotherhood as they dry and will be available for purchase. 

  • Thursday, Jan. 28, 12 pm-4 pm, Friday, Jan. 30, 8 am-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 8 am-4 pm

Tin Can Tourists Vintage Campers – Tim Heintz, Historian of the Tin Can Tourists, can easily be found at this site displaying the biggest and oldest of the campers.  He invites attendees to view these lovingly refurbished 1940-60s era trailers and learn about the lifestyle of the campers who originated this club in 1919.  Mr. Heintz will explain the everyday life of these “on the road” campers who visited Florida and recorded in their journals what life “on the road” entailed in those bygone days.   At least 15-20 camping trailers will be showcased.  The group’s website provides a rich display of more details:

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8am-5 pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8am-3:30 pm

Florida Forest Service – A nature trail will display the flora and fauna of forests in the state with special emphasis on the historical fact that Arbor Day in Florida was inspired by a presentation in 1885 on the grounds of the historic Florida Chautauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs.  Lake Yard.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 am-5 pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8 am-3:30 pm

Home Depot Kids Clinic – Home Depot invites you to bring the kids to the amphitheater in the Lake Yard to build birdhouses and other neat things.   Building kits and hands-on instructors are provided absolutely free, courtesy of Home Depot of Panama City Beach and surrounding Home Depot stores.  Lake Yard Amphitheater.

  • Saturday, Jan. 30, 10 am – 2 pm

Chautauqua Cruisers Antique Car Show – Visitors will enjoy seeing vintage and antique cars from years gone by.  In front of Walton County Heritage Museum (Train Depot).

  • Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 am – 5 pm

Student Museum – Everyday life has undergone major changes since the 1950s when “Leave it to Beaver” seemed to define American life.  Visit the Student Museum located on the second floor of the Hall of Brotherhood to see how local students represent the “Then and Now” world of the 1950s to 2016.  Exhibits feature music, clothing, entertainment, medicine and integration.  After viewing the exhibits, we encourage you to vote on the “People’s Choice” best exhibit.  Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, 2nd Floor, 96 Circle Drive.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 am-5 pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8 am-3:30 pm

Florida Chautauqua History Exhibit – This is a new collection of historical photographs, documents and photos relating to the original Florida Chautauqua history and its revival.  The exhibit is coordinated by Florida Chautauqua Center Historian Robert Daniel.  Special thanks go to the University of West Florida, the Florida State Archives and the University of Florida’s George Smathers Library for their assistance in providing material for this display.  Florida Chautauqua Headquarters, 1290 Circle Drive.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 am-5 pm; Sunday, Jan. 31, 8 am-3:30 pm

Walton County Heritage Museum – Visit the Walton County Heritage Museum to experience DeFuniak Springs in the early 20th Century.  Exhibits highlight businesses, hotels, farm life, schools, the railroad, and military service. See tableware from Hotel Chautauqua, items that belonged to Wallace Bruce, and benches from the old Chautauqua Auditorium.  1140 Circle Drive.

  • Thursday, Jan. 28, 1 pm-4 pm; Friday, Jan. 29, 1 pm-4 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 1 pm-4 pm.  Watch for the “Open” sign for extended hours.

Historic DeFuniak Springs Library – Craft projects are scheduled during Friday, January 24, along with a children’s story time with crafts at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.  Please note that the library opens at 9 a.m., and that the library will be open throughout the day on Saturday.  3 Circle Drive.

  • Thursday, Jan. 28, 9 am-5 pm; Friday, Jan. 29, 9 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 9 am-5pm

Chautauqua Porcelain Show -Artists will have a variety of pieces for sale. Hand painted pieces include tea pots, vases, spoon rests, plates and cups.  International award winner Mary Vinson of DeFuniak Springs was the organization’s teacher for many years.  Chautauqua Porcelain Artists has welcomed guest artists from all over the United States who came and had a significant influence on local artists.  Members have learned many secrets of china painting from Mary Vinson and guest artists.  DeFuniak Springs Community Center, 361 North 10th Street.

  • Friday, Jan. 29, 8 am-5 pm; Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 am-5 pm

For a complete list of Assembly activities, go

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Unconditional Love program provides new beginnings for canines, inmates

Unconditional love between inmate and Poppy. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Unconditional love between inmate and Poppy. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Alaqua Animal Refuge is a special place of healing for animals. Since 2007, the no kill refuge has taken in thousands of unwanted, neglected and abandoned animals, all of which are given a second chance in life. Through their efforts, Alaqua finds happy homes for most.

At times, circumstances prove challenging, as some dogs arrive at the refuge severely neglected or abused. The psychological damage they incurred causes them to shy away from humans, which in turn makes them less likely to be adopted. When these situations occur; Alaqua has a special outreach called their Unconditional Love Program.

The refuge is working with inmates at the Walton Correctional Institution to train the dogs to become companions. Once a pack of 10 is chosen, the dogs spend 10-12 weeks in at the prison. The inmates, who are both trainers and caretakers, spend 24/7 with their dog. A prison trainer and Alaqua staff spend about 14 hours per week at the facility leading the training sessions. During the first two weeks, the inmates and canines utilize basic orientation skills. The remainder of the program is dedicated to training exercises with the dogs learning to sit, stand, heel and leash walk, ultimately leading to program completion.

Inmate demonstrates the calming effect of Jin Shin Jyutsu on Marigold. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Inmate demonstrates the calming effect of Jin Shin Jyutsu on Marigold. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The practice of Jin Shin Jyutsu is introduced early on and practiced by inmates throughout the course of the program. Jin Shin Jyutsu is an ancient art that harmonizes the balance of body, mind and spirit through hands-on practice. This practice enhances the bond and results in the ability for the canine to grow, change and ultimately experience healing and harmony.

The inmates benefit from the program as well, learning empathy, patience and respect while teaching the dogs basic skills. Similar programs report 97% of inmate handlers and sitters demonstrated greater empathy and decreased depression during incarceration; 87% demonstrated improved communication skills; and institutional staffs report a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved institutional adjustment by inmates involved in canine training programs. The program demonstrates a true picture of second chances, both to the canine and to the inmate.

A sense of responsibility was the biggest reward mentioned by inmates at the most recent graduation ceremony January 26, 2016.

“The program has done a lot for me, teaching me compassion and responsibility. It’s helped me open up and be something productive,” said inmate C. Justice.

Unconditional Love Program Jan. 26 graduating group. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Unconditional Love Program Jan. 26 graduating group. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

There were approximately 40 people in attendance at the ceremony. Many had tears in their eyes as they witnessed the success of the program as they watched the inmates show off their hard work.

Alaqua volunteers Cathy Potter, and Chase Johnson, were in attendance. Both were extremely excited to watch two dogs in particular, Poppy and Marigold graduate.

“Poppy and Marigold came in with about 4 other similar sized dogs and some bigger dogs from a rescue who’s owner had died leaving them with no one to care for them. Alaqua took many of them. The other small dogs got adopted pretty quickly. They were more socialized than Poppy and Marigold, especially Marigold. She was petrified on the day she came in and wouldn’t let anyone come near her,” said Potter.

Some of the dogs that graduated already have new forever homes, one going on to become a service dog, and a few are still available for adoption at Alaqua.

The Unconditional Love Program is supported by public donation. If you would like to donate, sponsor a dog or learn more about the Unconditional Love Program, go to: or call Jody Bailen, operations manager at (850) 880-6691.

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FWC conserves painted, indigo buntings, focuses on illegal trapping

Male indigo bunting. Photo courtesy FWC.

Male indigo bunting. Photo courtesy FWC.

Painted and indigo buntings breed in northern Florida, spend the winter primarily in southern Florida and can be found throughout much of the state during spring and fall migration. Poachers illegally trap these beautiful birds to sell them, often to unsuspecting members of the public. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks members of the public to report any instances of illegal trapping to its Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 (FWCC) or by email or text to [email protected].

The traps that are normally used are elaborate, large devices and can be found hanging from trees 2 to 4 feet above the ground in high grasses, where the wintering birds like to seek cover. The traps are usually left for several hours before subjects check them for captured migratory birds.

Illegal traps. Photo courtesy FWC.

Illegal traps. Photo courtesy FWC.

These actions are illegal and violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which protects birds from unlawful actions that harm them.

“Although the MBTA dates back to 1918, many people may not realize that even owning a migratory bird like a painted or indigo bunting is illegal,” said Maj. Alfredo Escanio, FWC Regional Commander. “We want to get the word out that these birds are protected, and ask the public to let us know if they see anyone trying to trap these birds.”

Members of the public can anonymously report any violations to the FWC by calling the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 (FWCC) or by email or text to [email protected].

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Bent Rod Fishing Club meets Feb. 11

bentrodfishingThe Bent Rod Fishing Club meets the 2nd Thursday each month, at 1p.m., at the Life Enrichment Senior Center, 312 College Ave. DeFuniak Springs.

The club is a component of the Enrichment Center, which provides a wide range of activities for active members age 50 and over.  Visitors and invited guests are always welcome.

Club members primarily fish the Choctawhatchee River and Bay as well as numerous other creeks and small ponds in the area. Members practice conservation and the protection of our water and fishery resources. Programs consist of field trips, guest speakers, fishing industry presentations, tackle and terminal gear demonstrations, and good conversation and exchange of fishing information between members.

For more information, contact J. B. Hillard at [email protected].

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