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Love Letters: Seaside Times readers share their favorite memories

Wendy Dixon

Posted on Jun 02, 2021 in The Seaside Times

Thoughtfully planned to encourage spending time together, Seaside has been the setting for special occasions, including weddings, anniversaries, and family reunions. Everyday rituals, like morning coffee on the front porch a walk on the beach, are equally beloved. The Seaside Times asked some readers to share the reasons they return.

Ellen Potter, Prospect, Ky

I've always loved architecture and walkable neighborhoods. During a Disney World visit in 1986, I saved an article about Seaside from a Tampa newspaper.  So, I guess I've known about Seaside at least that long. (I remember reading that Prince Charles was aware of the concept too!)

We first drove over from far west Panama City Beach in 1990, and drove over or rode our bikes there for every visit afterwards. We began staying on 30A in 2000, then in 2008, we stayed at Seaside the first time and have stayed there ever since.

We love that we can park our van and not have to drive again. Otherwise, what's not to love? The beach pavilions, the different homes, the restaurants, the shops, the people. Even though we don't own a vacation home, many of the Seaside people remember us each visit. Throw in the Gulf and voila, it’s a wonderful beach vacation.

Stephanie Cornett, Clay City, Ky

We vacationed in Destin for over 15 years and heard about beach towns on 30A.

We would drive over to 30A and eat and shop, and Seaside was our favorite. We stayed in Seaside for the first time this past December and loved it. Our family enjoyed biking and walking in and around Seaside. We will return! Our son popped the question to his girlfriend while we were in Seaside and a local professional photographer captured it all. It is definitely a vacation we will never forget!

Garrett Horn, Seagrove

I see memory, especially the memories of Seaside, like a big, massive fruit tree. It was an innocent sapling, at one time, barely able to cling to the sand, being blown by the summer storms, baked in the sun. And then this tree grew, year by year. And none of us really noticed each and every new branch, as they unfurled.

We perhaps, on occasion, noticed the leaves change colors and fall, and new leaves bloom in their place. We occasionally noticed the houses and buildings of Seaside blossom and grow vital, and beautiful, and fill our hearts with color and warmth. Then, because of the wear and tear of living next to the awesome power of the Gulf, we watched buildings become rough and weathered, and lose their usefulness, and some were torn down. We watched houses become severed from the ground and carted away. But, of course, new buildings emerged to take their place. New limbs were born from the giant tree.

The early motto of Seaside was: The New Town, The Old Ways. Now, it’s the Old Town of Seaside, with New Ways to enjoy as it evolves.

I remember hearing Robert Davis say, many decades ago, that Seaside would someday be a park in the middle of a totally urban environment. I had a difficult time envisioning that, at the time. I guess something in me just assumed things would always remain the same. I am certainly challenged these days to accept the urbanization of my quaint little hometown of Seagrove, but the tree of Seaside is still standing, the branches are strong and every-changing. And, as the seasons pass, we can always pause in our busy lives, and reach up to pluck “an apple of memory” from the tree, and savor the luscious, sweetness of time, itself.

Debbie McChesney, Seaside

Many of us have memories of our special place by the sea, digging toes in the sand or finding a perfect, unbroken sand dollar. Some of us have memories that involve waiting on an elevator to descend from a high-rise condo to reach the beach. The lucky ones remember climbing wooden steps to the top of a gazebo that towers over sand dunes covered with sea oats, hosting dozens of dragonflies, and a whole world of creatures beneath the brambles. My three children believed that the dragonflies were tooth fairies that came in the night to pick up their lost tooth and dip their wings in a bedside glass of water, turning the water shades of pink, blue or green.

The first time I saw Seaside was in the early 1980s. We were driving from Sandestin to have dinner at Bud & Alley’s. It was a foggy, rainy night with an occasional flash of lightning. As we drove the desolate stretch of 30A, Seaside appeared like a mirage. The small pastel cottages lined Robert’s Way, a path in the middle of nowhere, and seemed nothing short of magnificent. The electricity was out when we arrived so we dined off the grill by candlelight.

Sundog Books was a charming one-room bookstore with a sand-covered floor that rested behind the dunes. Bud & Alley’s was a short walk away, Sip and Dip, run by Charlie Modica, was next door and Modica Market was across 30A. Not much else existed. If you came to Seaside in January, it was wise to bring all your necessities.

Seaside is now filled with restaurants and shops; fun, imaginative, forward thinking places. Seaside is fluid, always changing, constantly seeking a better way of doing things. The Seaside Amphitheater received a major renovation and is now a strikingly beautiful stage fitting for the center of town.

The green spaces throughout are as important to the feel and fun as the shops and restaurants. In front of our house sits a beautiful space where the water tower once was. There is often a family playing bocce or Frisbee. Just yesterday I witnessed a woman taking her turtle out for a little sunshine. With all the development on 30A, it's nice that in Seaside, our green space remains, respected and untouched.

During the pandemic, Seaside stepped up as the leader on 30A, turning the parking lot in to a beautiful yet functional eating area. The shops provide for social distancing and require masks. The SEASIDE Style® sells masks with Bud, the famous dachshund, emblazoned on the soft fabric.

Programs like the Seaside Repertory Theatre and Escape to Create (30A’s artist-in-residence program), continue to add purpose and mystique to our town and often lead to an ongoing relationship between the artists and 30A. But, most importantly, Seaside is just plain fun. The annual Halloweener Derby, a dachshund race that honors Seaside’s first dog, Bud; the Seaside Neighborhood School half marathon; shops like Duckies House of Fun and Central Square Records; the Seaside concert series and the Saturday morning Farmers Market all add up to create a special place that brings out the child in all of us.

Just tonight, I overheard a child leaving The Great Southern Café ask, “Mom isn’t this the most magical, perfect place in the world?” Her mom nodded, “Maybe so.”