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Inaugural Dragon Boat Festival & Races 2023

Here’s a highlights video of the aerial coverage of the Inaugural Dragon Boat Festival & Races at The Gulf restaurant on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Florida on Sept 10, 2023. This was a charity event benefiting Bring Hope Now, a peer to peer suicide prevention program for schools and military.

To learn more, donate and/or volunteer, go to

Brooks Bridge Groundbreaking Ceremony – August 23, 2023

The Florida Department of Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony on August 23, 2023 for the official start of construction of the new Brooks Bridge replacement project in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Speaking at this ceremony were:

Tim Smith
Tim Smith:
Director – Florida Department of Transportation, District 3

Jared Perdue
Jared Perdue:
Secretary – Florida Department of Transportation, District 3

Doug Broxson
Doug Broxson:
Florida State Senator, District 1

Post ceremony interviews with:

Mel Ponders
Okaloosa County Commissioner, District 5

Carolyn Ketchel
Okaloosa County Commissioner, District 2

Here are some facts about this project:

Project facts and statistics

  • Construction cost: $171 million
  • Start: Design began in July 2022
  • Est. Completion: Summer 2027 Preliminary construction activities began in fall of 2022.
  • Contract term: 1,856 days
  • Bridge length: The new bridge is 2,111 feet long, which is 793 feet longer than the current structure.
  • Bridge height: Horizontal clearance at the channel will increase from 140 to 150 feet.
  • Traffic count: 66,000 average annual daily traffic count

Project team

  • Project owner: Florida Department of Transportation (FOOT) District Three.
  • Design-build contractor: Superior Construction Co. is the design-build contractor.
  • Design services are provided by WSP.
  • CEI consultant: Eisman & Russo, Inc. is providing construction engineering and inspection (CEI) services on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation (FOOT) District Three. They are assisted by Searight Group and Metric.

Project description

This project will construct a new, six-lane bridge across the Santa Rosa Sound to connect Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. The design calls for two, parallel structures that will feature a total of six travel lanes (three eastbound and three westbound). Both bridge structures will provide three, 11-foot travel lanes flanked by 10-foot shoulders. In addition, both sides of the bridge will be equipped with a 12-foot multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Rationale for replacing the current bridge

The current Brooks Bridge was constructed in 1966 and no longer meets current design standards, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, or navigational clearance requirements for this portion of the Gulf lntracoastal Waterway. Additionally, U.S. 98 is the primary east-west connector serving this busy corridor. This project will increase bridge capacity from four to six travel lanes. The new bridge will also include wide shoulders that can be used as refuge lanes during accidents or mechanical malfunctions, and enhanced bicycle and pedestrian accommodations separated from traffic by a concrete barrier.

Bridge history The John T. Brooks Bridge has been a landmark in the city of Fort Walton Beach for more than seven decades. The bridge is named in honor of John Thomas Brooks, who became the first settler in the area around 1868. In 1935, the bridge was a two-lane, low-level structure that featured a “swinging center span” that required a bridge tender to tum the span sideways so that tall watercraft could pass beneath. Over time, the two-lane swing bridge proved deficient to meet the growing transportation demands of the area. In 1966, today’s four-lane Brooks Bridge opened to traffic.

Regional economic impact The $171 million Brooks Bridge replacement project represents a tremendous investment by the State of Florida into the regional economy. The design-build contractor, Superior Construction, estimates they will directly employ more than 100 workers to construct the new bridge.

Traffic impacts U.S. 98 will continue to accommodate two eastbound and two westbound travel lanes throughout construction of the new Brooks Bridge. Required temporary lane closures on U.S. 98 will be limited to the nighttime hours of 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Also, no lane closures or other traffic impacts will be allowed during holidays or special events.

Construction phases First, crews will construct the new westbound structure, during which time, four lanes (two eastbound and two westbound) will remain open on the current Brooks Bridge. Once the westbound structure is complete, all four-travel lanes will be temporarily shifted from the existing bridge to the new westbound structure. This will allow crews to demolish the existing bridge and build the new eastbound structure. The final phase will place the eastbound traffic onto the eastbound bridge. The final configuration will include three eastbound travel lanes and three westbound travel lane.

Project updates and information We share project updates, construction progress, and traffic advisory information on the @MyBrooksBridge Facebook page and Instagram page. You can also sign up to receive periodic email updates, including weekly traffic advisory information, at:

68th Krewe of Bowlegs Coronation Pageant


The 68th Krewe of Billy Bowlegs Coronation Pageant as Captain Billy Bowlegs 67th, his Queen and his Honor Guard bid farewell and welcome the 68th Captain & Krewe. The coronation took place at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on June 10, 2023 at 6:30pm.

Catch up with last year’s coronation here

67th Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival – May 18-22, 2023


Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is an event that takes place the 3rd weekend in May in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It kicks off with a Children’s Meet & Greet on Thursday night. On Friday evening, the Krewe of Bowlegs sail up to The Landing park and attempts to negotiate a surrender of the city with the Mayor, who puts up a good fight, and they promise to return the following day The city celebrates its victory with a fireworks show. On Saturday, Capitan Billy Bowlegs returns with the entire Krewe of Bowlegs to capture the city and then pass out booty (beads) to the crowd. After a day of rest from the pillaging, Capt Billy & his krewe sails off on the Blackhawk ship float during the Torchlight Parade on Eglin Parkway on Monday evening.

This is the replay of the parade on May 22, 2023.

2023 Commencement Ceremony at Northwest Florida State College

Watch the live stream of the Northwest Florida State College 2023 Commencement Ceremony from Raiders Arena on May 6, 2023.

10AM Ceremony for the presentation of the following: Certificate, AAS, AS, and Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

2PM Ceremony for the presentation of Associate of Arts (AA)

Inaugural ODA 595 Horse Soldiers Reunion 2022

On October 22, 2022, the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted the Inaugural ODA 595 Horse Soldiers Reunion at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds.  Ted Corcoran, CEO of the FWB Chamber, was Master of Ceremony.

Below is a replay video of the event. If you have a Smart TV, search for and install the VidFlow app to watch this video on your big screen TV. This video player also also you to select chapter points to specific speakers and presentations.

Ten of the original 12 members of ODA 595 were in attendance for this inaugural reunion event.

Captain Mark Nutsch – Detachment Commander

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bob Pennington – Assistant Detachment Commander

Master Sergeant Paul Evans – Team and Operations Sergeant

Sergeant First Class Andy Marchal – Intelligence Sergeant

Sergeant First Class Steve Kofron.  – Weapons Sergeant

Staff Sergeant Mike Elmore – Weapons Sergeant

Staff Sergeant Chad Jacklet– Engineer Sergeant

Sergeant First Class Steve Bleigh—Medical Sergeant

Sergeant First Class Vince Makela – Communications Sergeant

Staff Sergeant Will Summers– Communications Sergeant

Not in Attendance:

  • Staff Sergeant USAF Steve E. Tomat – Tactical Air Control Party (TACP)
  • Staff Sergeant USAF Joseph Matt Lienhard– Air Force Special Operations Combat Controller from Special Tactics Squadron

Several prominent guest speakers included Florida House District #4 representative Patt Maney, former CIA Directorate of Operations officer Alex Hernandez, former USAF Chief of Staff for a Theater Special, retired Col Glenn Thomas, and the son of Doolittle Raiders Col Dick Cole, Richard Cole.


A special commemorative canteen cup was created by the Bohlin Company and presented to each member of ODA 595 in honor and recognition of their heroic actions in America’s first response against the Taliban after the 911 attack.

This event was made possible through the support of several local community sponsors.

If you are interested in learning more about ODA 595 as well as other stories about America’s 1st response to the 911 attacks, check out these sources:

First Casualty by Toby Harnden
First Casualty by Toby Harnden

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton

Swords of Lightning – Green Beret Horse Soldiers and America’s Response to 911

12 Strong – The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

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