Holiday cheer was officially brought to Port St. Joe last weekend during the 13th annual Christmas on the Coast.
The festivities began on Friday night at City Commons Park where Santa Claus was in the gazebo, ready and waiting for children to make their last minute gift requests.
Horse drawn carriage rides were available for $5 that took riders on a scenic tour of downtown Port St. Joe.
Not to be left out of the holiday spirit, The Artery Studio featured 19 different artists during their Artful Gifts sale and annual open house.
Revelers enjoyed holiday-themed artwork, snacks and conversation.
The following day, the final Salt-Air Farmer’s Market of the season took over City Commons Park with more than 20 vendors selling fresh produce, homemade crafts and stocking stuffers.
Event organizer John Parker said he was surprised that the best weather they’d had all season happened to coincide with a Christmas-themed event.
Throughout the market, live music filled the air courtesy of local Christian-rock band Thirty Three and musicians Diane Peavy and Greg Wood.
Simultaneously, the annual Chili Cook-off presented by the Junior Service League was held in the Sailor’s Cove parking lot and welcomes 25 teams who competed for the title of “Best Chili in Port St. Joe.”
Nearly $5,000 was raised from the event that will help fund community service works of the JSL which include the purchase of clothing and school supplies for area children.
“It was our biggest year yet,” said event organizer Kaci Rhodes. “I would say we had maybe 250-300 people in attendance throughout the day.”
Prior to the event, judges held a blind taste test and graded each chili on taste, texture and appearance.
First place and official bragging rights went to Monumental Chili which banked $100 cash for their win. Second place, and winner of $75 was Beachcombers III, and third place went to Sunset Coastal Grill along with a $50 prize.
The team spirit award was reserved for the team that best decorated its area for the event.
Team Chili Chili Bang Bang won $50 for their spirit and promptly donated it back to the JSL.
At the end of the day, team Chillin’ at the Dunes possessed the most tickets, meaning most bowls of chili sold, and received the People’s Choice Award. They also donated their winnings to the JSL.
“This Chili Cook-off wouldn't have been a success if it weren't for the help of my co-chair Jessica Brock and JSL president Michelle Perrin,” said Rhodes. “It was a great location and everyone seemed to have a great day. Thank you for everyone's support to our league, it is greatly appreciated.”
Live music for the event was provided by Konkrete Soul on the Haughty Heron stage.
As dusk rolled over downtown Port St. Joe, holiday lights supplied by the Merchant’s Association illuminated the trees up and down Reid Avenue in preparation for the annual Christmas parade.
“The goal this year was to get more businesses involved,” said Chamber of Commerce director Paula Pickett. “We were successful in that. Last year we had three businesses and this year there were 14 who participated.”
More than 50 floats spread holiday cheer and candy as they coasted down the street. Holiday lights shone and Christmas tunes blared as the Port St. Joe school band, followed by the Boy Scouts, myriad classic cars and golf carts of every shape and size.
Pickett extended a warm thank you to Jimmy Rogers and the city staff who hung lights and put up holiday decorations around Port St. Joe.
“We always have a list of things we need and Jimmy makes us all happy,” said Pickett.
Rogers even drove Santa Claus’ sleigh as the jolly old elf made his grand entrance at the end of the parade, officially ushering in the Christmas season.
“The event went off smoothly and was a true community effort,” said Pickett. “The local merchants held extended store hours with fantastic deals and they’re showing us that there are plenty of places to buy Christmas presents locally.
“The chili cook-off was a fantastic time and it will just get bigger and better.”