Annual Christmas celebration part of Destin’s ‘DNA’


Sitting on Jolly Old Saint Nick’s lap, Emilyn Kilpatrick, 3, asks for a Dancing Dora.

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 02:29 PM.

Destin’s Christmas celebration dates back to 1915 when “Uncle Billy” donned the first Santa suit. Flash forward almost 100 years later and the annual event still captures the heart of the city.

“I remember growing up and waiting in anticipation for Santa to come out,” said Cyron Marler, who is a great grandson of William T. “Uncle Billy” Marler. “Most of my generation remembers growing up with it.”

More than 300 moms, dads, children and grandparents gathered at the Community Center Thursday night to share in song, dance and community spirit before lighting the city’s Christmas tree, officially ringing in the holiday season.

With holiday punch and hot chocolate in hand, the appreciative crowd tapped their toes and sang along to holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells” and performances by the Destin Middle School cheerleaders, Noah’s Ark Preschool, and Dance Elite.

“Parents love to watch their children on stage,” Marler said. “You could see all of the flashbulbs going off.”

Local musician Calvin Jasper lent his vocal talents to the celebration by performing “When Snowflakes Fall,” which was written by DMS Chorus Teacher Omar Hart. The performance was a crowd favorite.

In the old days, Marler said the annual celebration was held on Christmas Eve and a fish fry took place in order to raise money to buy gifts for the city’s children.

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