Friday, November 2, 2018

TEXT AS WRITTEN OF MAYOR VAN JOHNSON’S 55TH ANNUAL FLORIDA SEAFOOD FESTIVAL WELCOME SPEECH:

Beyla Walker and Demetrice Cummings

On behalf of the Apalachicola Board of City Commissioners, it is both a privilege and a pleasure to once again welcome our families, friends, and visitors to the City of Apalachicola and to the Annual Florida Seafood Festival.
To say that we are thrilled to have each of you with us, to share and be part of this 55th annual celebration is an understatement. Your presence alone speaks volumes and with many of you traveling great distances just to be here - serves as a reminder to us all just how important our work is here today and moving forward.
Although we didn’t start today with the most agreeable weather for an outdoor celebration. We can all agree that we are truly blessed just to be here. A few short weeks ago we were staring down the eye of a deadly Category 4 hurricane, that claimed the lives of at least 20 Floridians and shattered the lives of countless others as it slammed into the Florida Panhandle. A storm that has since been classified as the third strongest storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. and the first storm on record to come ashore in the Florida Panhandle with a projected path that stretched from Florida all the way north - to Maryland.
The chaos left behind by Hurricane Michael summoned the fine group of men and women that make up the all-volunteer board of directors that oversee the annual Florida Seafood Festival with the courage to forge ahead - with making this year’s celebration a reality despite the overwhelming circumstances, that begged them to do otherwise.
A much-needed reality that gives each of us pause to reflect, pray, heal and be of service to each other and to our sister communities to the West and Northwest of us, some still without normalcy in their daily lives.
Although we sometimes have our differences and disagreements, what binds us together is truly greater than what separates us, so to say that we are fortunate is also another understatement. No, we are not fortunate, but we are extremely blessed. Blessed with the fortitude to turn chaos into an opportunity to serve others.
With that, it’s also a privilege and a pleasure for me to introduce this year Florida Seafood Festival Royalty. Our 2018 Miss Florida Seafood Queen, is Miss Beyla Walker. Miss Walker, is a Franklin County High School senior and the daughter of Pastors Harolyn and David Walker all of Apalachicola. Anybody that knows Beyla, can tell you that she is destined for greatness. She’s the president of her senior class, a member of the Student Government Association, a member of the National Honor Society, Captain of the Varsity Cheerleading Squad, a member of the Franklin County Seahawks Varsity Girls Volleyball team and she’s currently dual enrolled in both high school and college where she has maintained a 4.0 weighted GPA and 3.5 unweighted.
Serving as our 2018 King Retsyo is Mr. Demetrice Cummings. Mr. Cummings is a longtime seafood house worker, who knows what it means to work hard every day in an industry that has repeatedly suffered at the hands of both man and nature.
By man, through the continued reduction of freshwater flow down the Apalachicola River that’s vital to a healthy Bay and a productive seafood industry, and by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spills that devastated the region along the Gulf of Mexico. By nature through hurricanes followed by fishery failures after fishery failures.
But we are still here, resilient - because our hope rests upon something great then we are.
Again, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you and to introduce you to our 2018 King Retsyo and his Queen, Beyla.