If last year was big for the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, then the stops are being pulled out for 2014.
The annual Celebrate Twice event, which allowed revelers to safely ring in the new year in the Eastern and Central time zones through use of public trolley, also served as a platform to debut the official adult beverage of Gulf County.
The winner of the Bar Wars event which had local bars and eateries competing to create an official drink for the county, the “GCFL,” was Dockside Seafood and Raw Bar.
Judging took place just before New Year’s Eve with additional entries from The Thirsty Goat, Sunset Coastal Grill, St. Joe Bar, Lookout Lounge and Haughty Heron.
Each recipe was created at the Welcome Center and sampled by a group of local volunteers.
TDC executive director Jennifer Jenkins sees the new beverage as a marketing tool to help further define and unite the area.
“We wanted the judges to ask themselves if the drink was something that could be enjoyed in December, but also in July,” said Jenkins.
Additionally, the drink was required to sport one of Gulf Coast’s official colors of turquoise, orange, coral, emerald green or royal blue.
Pubs that participated in Bar Wars will be serving up the winning concoction year round and the drink debuted during the New Year’s Eve festivities.
The first 24 patrons to order the drink at one of the participating pubs also received a free GCFL tumbler.
“Everybody did great and the judges had a lot of fun,” said Jenkins. “Everyone was happy for Dockside.”
For Jenkins, an official drink was just the beginning of the TDC’s 2014 marketing efforts.
In order to put Gulf County and the Forgotten Coast on the map, she will send out a media release to 2,000 journalists and bloggers to provide more information about the area in hopes that travel writers will visit and spread the word of the beautiful beaches and small town charm.
This month, Jenkins will head to New York City to meet one-on-one with bloggers. The following month, Jenkins will head to Birmingham and host a media reception.
There, Jenkins will distribute what she called “Gulf County survival kits,” packed with GCFL tumblers, Tupelo Honey, Ed’s Hot Sauce, a scallop knife and various other items.
“The goal will be to bring Gulf County to Birmingham,” said Jenkins.
A new website for the TDC will launch in March and feature more social integration and a larger calendar of events.
Jenkins said that one of her goals for 2014 is to offer more for visiting snowbirds by establishing additional events and activities for guests who visit January through March.
Plans are in motion for two winter guest receptions for visitors to come for food, drinks and mingling in order to meet members of the community and like-minded vacationers.
“Visitors make friends when they come here,” said Jenkins about creating a platform to help in the process.
The genesis of the ideas comes directly from visitors to the area who drop by the Welcome Center.
Jenkins said that she does her best to speak with everyone who comes in the door to find out what they’ve enjoyed, where they’ve been and what they’d like to see more of.
She’s also exploring additional events that can be held on Sundays and Mondays as well as documenting the best day trips that Gulf County has to offer.
In addition to bringing together visitors, Jenkins will also be working to bring area lodging partners together to meet with one another and discuss their experiences with guests and what other amenities can make Gulf County even more irresistible than it already is.