Pensacola, Florida
Thursday November 27th 2014

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Hitting a Home Run
Although baseball season just ended, meaning you’ll have to wait patiently before getting to see the Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league baseball team hit home runs again, the good news is, it once again becomes something you get to eagerly look forward to. Not only do the Wahoos shine on the field, their stadium serves as an eye-catching community focal point, and the organization shines within the community year round, long after the season’s end. “The commitment to the community is wide ranging,” said owner Quint Studer. “It includes creating enjoyment, creating jobs and providing development opportunities for staff so that they can increase their skill sets for current and future job successes and opportunities.” Speaking of staff, the Wahoos currently have a home run hitting chef team as a part of their lineup, who during season, give sports fans something out of the box to chomp down on between innings and have even been known to challenge fans with signature food items large enough to feed entire families. bluewahoos.com

Pensacola at Play
Pensacola’s numerous squares and parks are highly esteemed and recognized as a source of pride and venue for activity for many a local in Pensacola. “Our parks are wonderful showpieces for the City of Pensacola,” Kim Carmody, Pensacola Neighborhood Services Superintendent, said. “While each of our parks are unique and offer a variety of recreational and natural amenities, they all help promote physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make our neighborhoods more attractive places to live, work, and play.” This idea of play comes in many shapes and forms, and certainly isn’t limited to merely sliding down a slide. “Daily, our residents are playing tennis, hosting family events, walking a trail with a friend, getting married under the pavilion, and even fishing in several parks,” she said. When it comes to upkeep, Carmody credits partners and volunteers with assisting to make the parks better for everyone. “On any given weekend, you will find a park project taking place, where groups are planting sensory gardens, painting equipment, or constructing obstacle courses or swimming docks for our four legged friends.” playpensacola.com

Festivals on Festivals
Pick a festival—any festival. Fiesta of Five Flags is best known for putting on events that are left lingering in your memories after they’re gone that execute their mission: “To celebrate our heritage, promote tourism and build pride in Pensacola through festive activities which enhance the quality of life in our community.” Not only do these events draw in attendees from far and wide, they eagerly leave people waiting for their return year after year. Although the most eagerly awaited food event of the year—the Seafood Festival just passed, the Crawfish Festival returns in late Spring, before things heat up again bringing with it thousands and thousands of mud-bugs to suck on. Still, festivals aren’t limited to stationary events, we can’t forget the Fiesta Day parade, where spirits fly high, and beads rain down. 2121 W. Intendencia St., fiestaoffiveflags.org

New and Notable
Caitlin Gottstine joined the Greater Pensacola Chamber in February 2013 as the Programs & Events Coordinator. In less than a year, Gottstine has quickly distinguished herself among young professionals in Pensacola. From monthly membership meetings to the PACE Awards, Gottstine oversees event planning for the Chamber. “Caitlin has done a great job analyzing the programs and events we deliver to our members, as well as looking for ways in which we can improve our services,” said KC Etheredge, the Greater Pensacola Chamber’s Vice President of Membership and Investor Development. “She is responsible for the design, implementation and management of all Chamber programs and events. She is also responsible for managing the Leadership Pensacola (LeaP) program.” Though Gottstine has only been on the job for a short while, Etheredge stated that it has been long enough for members—including the LeaP volunteers—to take note of her contributions, “They feel confident in her ability to help them grow their professional networks.”  117 W. Garden St., pensacolachamber.com

For Kids’ Sake
“My favorite part of the job is the collaborative nature of the work and that I don’t have a ‘typical’ work day,” said Stacey Kostevicki, executive director of Gulf Coast Kid’s House. “I get to do a variety of things, from public relations, to volunteer management, to building maintenance, to fundraising to grant-writing.”  As a children’s advocacy center, Gulf Coast Kid’s House serves abused children and their families, and conducts child abuse prevention awareness outreach. Chocolate Fest, the non-profit’s largest public fundraiser is a Pensacola favorite. “We raise approximately $30,000 each year from that event. These funds go to support operational expenses—our utilities alone are over $20,000 annually,” Kostevicki said. Of her work at the helm of a very busy organization, Kostevicki believes it is her “get in and get it done” approach combined with a dedication to collaboration and communication that makes both her and the non-profit’s staff effective. “We all have such different strengths and weaknesses,” she said, “the only way we can succeed is to work together.” 3401 N. 12th Ave., gulfcoastkidshouse.org

Sing Your Heart Out
Some children go to soccer practice. Others attend swimming lessons. Then there are those who spend their after school hours singing their hearts out practicing for musical extravaganzas that draw in the masses year after year. If you haven’t at least heard of “Christmas on the Coast” by now you clearly have been living off the grid. Twenty-four years strong, The Pensacola Children’s Chorus serves as an after school favorite of area children and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. “Founding Artistic Directors Allen and Susan Pote have devoted themselves to enriching the lives of children through music education and it is their passion that has set a standard of excellence within the organization,” said Executive Director Hillary Turner. “Being a member of the Children’s Chorus gives children the opportunity to be a part of an organization that encourages their musical talent through weekly rehearsals while working toward three large public productions each season.” Not only are the children on board, but parents are also forever singing the chorus’ praises. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a productive, educational and musical opportunity for their kiddos like no other. 46 E. Chase St., pensacolachildrenschorus.com

Flying High
“We have tremendous support in Pensacola with some of the Southern Professional Hockey League’s most loyal fans,” said Chuck McCartney, president of the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Preparing to kick off a new season as the 2013 SPHL President Cup Champions, the Ice Flyers organization is, in addition to hiring a new coach, making plans for a new and improved game experience for fans. “We have put a lot of effort during the off season to increase the fan experience,” said McCartney. “We have added a ton of elements out front on the plaza for fans as they arrive including a hockey slap shot game kids can play with a radar gun to see how hard they can shoot.” The team has also revamped the game intro and starting lineup routine and has new items for fan contests, including an electronic system for the 50/50 Raffle. McCartney is looking forward to those changes, and welcoming fans back to the Bay Center. “We all can’t wait to see the Hangar full on opening night to see the smiles on all of the fans as we raise the Championship Banner.” 201 E. Gregory St., pensacolaiceflyers.com

Everyone Loves a 
Parade
On the northern Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras is a special time of year. Danny Zimmern, president of Pensacola Mardi Gras, Inc., reports that though Mardi Gras 2014 will be February 28, organizers are already planning the carnival season festivities. “Our website is already getting hundreds of visitors, and we have gotten dozens of emails from krewes and businesses who want to participate in the citywide events,” Zimmern said. Pensacola’s celebration is certainly growing, too. “It appears we will have dozens of balls and other events that raise awareness and money for local causes,” said Zimmern of the work of dozens of new krewes that have sprung up in recent years. “Pensacola is known for its throw, and seeing the crowd at the end of the parade is terrific,” said Zimmern. “Of course, seeing downtown Pensacola alive and thriving with Mardi Gras events and celebrations during the entire months of January and February is very rewarding too.” 124 E. Wright St., pensacolamardigras.com

Opera at Its Finest
The Pensacola Opera showcases a big city opera rooted in small town charm, providing an unmatched cultural experience to all those who experience the glory. “Opera is for everyone. It combines all the art forms to produce this crazy, over-the-top experience like no other,” said Executive Director Erin Sammis, CRFE. “It combines singing, acting, orchestral music, dance, sets, costumes, lighting, history, art, politics, religion, love, hate—you name it—and on top of that, hundreds of people are required to pull it off.” Besides attending performances, partaking in the Pensacola Opera’s special events provide you the chance to network with other arts-loving people, and support the Opera at the same time. Pensacola Opera is currently hosting a series of open houses offering you the best seats to upcoming spring performances, “Carmen” and “Cinderella” at exclusive prices. Guests can also learn more about volunteer and membership opportunities, and as a special feature, opera singers will perform musical highlights from “Carmen.” Plus, their signature fall fundraising event, Jukebox Gala, is coming up Oct. 26. 75 S. Tarragona St., pensacolaopera.com

The Group Effect
What do the terms teamwork, respect, integrity, generosity, learning and measurable achievement all have in common? They’ve each become synonymous with the group effect of Studer Group. It’s no wonder this standout group has been consistently ranked as a great place to work. “We are a passionate group of people who are motivated to have purpose, do worthwhile work and make a difference,” said Debbie Ritchie, COO/Operations Leader. “Consequently that is reflected in our work environment. We measure what’s important and focus on improvement until we get it right.” This starts with their leader, Quint Studer, who radiates this practice of service through his own organization and any outside organization his team works to serve. This value system naturally carries over into a fully involved commitment of service to the community. “Studer Group is fully committed to its employees and the local community, which is reflected in how we treat those we work with and those we serve,” said Ritchie. In case you were left wondering if Studer Group has fun, fret not. They are equally committed to the quality of a well-rounded life. “We also recognize the importance of fun so our work environment reflects that too,” said Ritchie. “We promote activities that let us enjoy each other away from work, for example talent competitions, luncheons and baseball games. 913 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Ste. 6, studergroup.com

Media/Music

The Cat’s Meow
This November will mark 10 whole years that Cat Country 98.7 has been on the air, not to mention six years for NewsRadio 1620. While several local radio stations are just playing syndicated shows, Cat Country/NewsRadio is the only locally owned and operated station. “Our mission is to serve the community in any way we can,” said General Manager and owner Mary Hoxeng. Whether you’re jamming out to Taylor Swift, listening to local news, or catching up with your favorite DJs, the radio station is keeping you entertained throughout the day. Beyond the radio waves, it’s rare to head to a Gulf Coast event and not see the country station’s “cool cat” mascot hanging out with the crowd and handing out free swag. It’s all part of the station’s service. The best part of owning a radio station in Pensacola is the people, Hoxeng said.  catcountry987.com

The Power to Surprise
Advertising is only as good as its product or service. When that product is Kia AutoSport of Pensacola, it makes the ads that much better. “Great agencies bask in the light of their clients,” said Steve Lorenzo, managing partner of JFK Advertising, brains behind Kia AutoSport of Pensacola’s advertising since 1999. While JFK’s Kia ad contracts extend far past Pensacola, when it comes to Pensacola specifically, Lorenzo is quick to note, “They are one of the top performing Kia dealerships in the country. They make us look good.” He also touts General Manager Jessica Lee for being a standout leading businesswoman in a predominantly male-steered car salesmen world. Then there’s the area outreach. On top of the onsite success, Kia AutoSport of Pensacola is deeply involved in the community. “It’s really a value story,” said Lorenzo. “One that makes you say—gee wiz, I really want a Kia.” 6637 Pensacola Blvd., kiaautosportpensacola.com

Weddings

A Good Room
Located just south of Main Street, event space 5eleven Palafox can accommodate guests inside its historic walls, outside on a patio, or under tents on a lawn—a rare feature among downtown event venues. “Our 120-year-old brick walls, French doors and wood floors, sophisticated bar and beautiful courtyard make the venue easy to transform any event into an elegant one,” said manager Mary Price. “Our beautiful building is very special.” From weddings, receptions, and rehearsal dinners, to birthdays and Christmas parties, 5eleven’s staff can accommodate a variety of gatherings, and being consistently voted one of the best reception venues shows they’re doing it well. A caterer’s kitchen allows for on-site food preparation for the several hundred guests the space can accommodate. Price says by far, the people she works with are the best part of her job, “I get to meet the happiest brides and cutest couples and people planning parties every day.”  511 S. Palafox, 5elevenpalafox.com

Purveyor of Sound
There probably isn’t a better combination of traits for a DJ to have than a passion for music and people. Ramsey Coates of AnyDayDJ has both. “I absolutely love music and even more so the creativity and construction behind it. So much so that when I hear a song for the first time it’s never the same again,” said Coates. “I hear new parts, elements, progression in the songs the more I listen to them, which helps me put my sets together.” Coates founded AnyDayDJ in 2009 after 10 years touring the South as a Drum and Bass DJ. He now plays weddings, Mardi Gras Balls, birthday parties, and anything in between. “It’s a wicked buzz when you connect with someone in the crowd and they are like, ‘Yeah, I’m feeling that.’ I love playing and vibing with the music and people.” 520 E. Zaragoza St., anydaydj.com

Let Them Eat Cake
Designing and baking confectionary art for more than 30 years, Betty Weber Cakes have become a status symbol at local weddings. From traditional tiered cakes to whimsical designs to ironic groom’s cakes, Weber can create the wedding treat of anyone’s dreams. Weber’s schedule is typically packed designing and making cakes, but you might get lucky if you want to snag a specialty cake for events other than weddings. Flavors of cakes include:  chocolate, red velvet, Italian cream, old-fashioned butter cake, almond and cream cheese—”the good stuff,” Weber notes on her website. In 2010, Weber was honored by “The Knot” magazine as one of the best bakers in Florida and is a regular on the Best of the Coast list. Weber understands the importance of bride and groom approval and works with her clients to create the perfect—and delicious—wedding reception centerpiece. “Together, we can design the perfect cake for your perfect day,” she says on her website.  
477-1745, bettyweber.blogspot.com

Living The Dream
When discussing their business, the word “dream,” is a common descriptor used by The Bridal Loft’s owner Brenda Carraway and assistant Brandi Meriwether. Making a bride-to-be’s dreams come true is at the heart of what the two do as a team. Carraway has over 30 years of experience in retail. In 2005, she introduced bridal wear into her store The Fashion Connection, and The Bridal Loft was born. The store quickly became a favorite among brides. “We so appreciate our customers voting us for the 4th year into Best of the Coast,” Carraway and Meriwether stated. The store provides a large selection of designer bridal fashions for the bride, mothers of the bride, and wedding party in addition to a range of prom, cocktail, and formal gowns and has an in-house seamstress to get the fit just right. 4400 Bayou Blvd., #48, pensacolabridalloft.com

Catering to Your Needs
Good food and generosity go hand in hand thanks to Culinary Productions, Inc. “We started hosting our signature Gourmet Dinner Night in 2010 as a way to showcase what we do, provide a fun night out highlighting local and regional musicians and artists—all for a reasonable price,” said Mike DeSorbo, executive chef at Culinary Productions, Inc.  Once the event caught on, events coordinator Raela Villanueva decided to use the platform to raise money for “underdog charities” in the local area. Culinary Productions has helped more than 12 different charities raise over $25,000. The catering company stays busy not only hosting charity events, but also weddings, corporate lunches, gourmet buffets and more. Signature dishes such as Lobster Mac & Cheese Tartlets, Lamb Gyro Empenadas with Tzatziki Sauce and Hibachi Skewers have helped make a name for the catering company and its chef, DeSorbo. But services don’t stop with the food. “We can also set up services with other vendors to include venues, bar services, florals, linens, cakes and desserts, DJs and bands, dance floors and other rentals,” said DeSorbo. “We’re like a one-stop-shop.” 700 W. Main St., culinaryproductions.net

Team Epic
When it comes to hair, the question isn’t what hairdo does Epic Inc. do best, but rather what ‘do don’t they do? The answer? There isn’t one. That is, there isn’t a hairdo Epic Inc. can’t master, including wedding hair. When it comes to styling locks for the big day, according to owner Stacey Norris, Epic Inc. can create a desired look that ranges “anywhere from elegant hair, to beautiful braiding, classic looks and just everyday evening hair.” It doesn’t hurt that Team Epic happens to be led by a Paul Mitchell National Educator and Platform artist with nearly two decades of experience under her belt, and an abundant personality. Still, Norris affirms that Team Epic thrives as a result of a team environment. “It’s how well we work together,” said Norris. When the talented team isn’t cutting, coloring, styling and profiling, they are routinely involved in community-driven efforts—they’ve been known to host their own salon events and offer Gallery Night specials, such as putting in pink hair extensions for donations to support Breast Cancer Awareness. 210 E. Government St., Ste. A, epicdowntown.com

Amore Fiore
Driving up 9th Avenue, design and floral lovers alike are always peeking a glance at Fiore to get inspiration from the storefront window. From corporate parties, to holiday decorations and, of course, weddings, owner and lead designer Shannon Pallin aims to make your event or home as beautiful at the storefront. “We offer a variety of florals for every occasion,” she said. Top-quality flowers from around the world, as well as artificial and dried flowers and plant material are Pallin’s medium when creating her designs. What sets the flower shop apart from the others is “an innate eye for colors and textures,” Pallin said. And after 20 years in the floral design business—her resume credits none other than Martha Stewart—Pallin doesn’t sweat high-pressure weddings. With Fiore’s talented team, brides have one less thing to worry about on the big day. “We work on so many details with each bride to make it a unique, fun and exciting process,” Pallin said. “Flowers are beautiful and create an atmosphere that is beyond the photos. You literally breathe in the day and you have it forever.” 824 E. Belmont St., fioreofpensacola.com

The Bride’s Best Friend
Sara Gillianne still gets butterflies in her stomach each time one of her clients walks down the aisle, she said. As owner of Sara Gillianne Weddings & Events, she not only enjoys the wedding planning process, but getting to know her brides and building long-lasting friendships. “I love everything—from picking out colors, flowers and linens to working with all of the vendors,” Gillianne said. “I also love the relationships that I build with my clients, many that end up being a life-long friendship.” Whether you’re having a DIY wedding and need someone to finish everything up before the big day, or you need a planner throughout the entire process, Gillianne and her team strive to produce the wedding of their client’s dreams. “We encourage our bride to be as involved as they want to, but only to the extent that keeps them relaxed and happy throughout the process,” she said. The planning process can be very personal, Gillianne said, and varies with each bride. “I strive to provide a very personal process for each bride,” she said. “I love the journey that we go on with each new bride.”  520 E. Zaragoza St., saragillianne.com

Pretty as a Picture
When the ceremony is over and the bar’s closed, all that’s left of a wedding are the memories captured by the photographer, something Aislinn Kate does not take lightly. “There’s rarely a minute during the wedding day that is not being covered by either myself or one of my assistants, so we are able to catch moments that are unexpectedly meaningful,” said Kate, owner and photographer of Aislinn Kate Photography. Clients are top priority, said Kate, who has traveled as far as the Caribbean to shoot a wedding. A photographer for most of her life, Kate captures moments that are not only beautiful, but meaningful too. “We try to shoot in such a way that both a modern bride and her traditional mother are tickled pink,” she said. “At the core of our photos you will find strong, classic, and elegant principles that will endure for decades without feeling dated or trendy.” aislinnkate.com