The Market Shops recently announced that their 8th Annual Bloody Mary Festival will take place on Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. For a $60 donation to attend, guests are invited from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to enjoy 16 of South Walton’s most coveted bloody marys. A panel of select food critics and local celebrities will judge each bloody mary to select the winners for the most delicious and creative. There will also be a highly coveted first-, second-, and third-place People’s Choice Award that is selected by each guest in attendance.
Apart from the bloody marys, there will also be plenty of food from the various restaurants located directly in The Market Shops. For the non-bloody mary aficionado, there will be local craft brews, champagne from the Bubbly Bar, and water at the Hydration Station. A lounge area with additional seating and cornhole games will be set up on the main lawn, along with SEC football streaming on the big screen.
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased online HERE.
Last year, an arch of tomato-red balloons ushered over 1,000 guests into the soldout Market Shops Annual Bloody Mary Festival. Tables decorated with all manner of accouterments from chicken wings to goat-cheese stuffed peppadews filled the festive scene. Talented mixologists from local restaurants shook and poured their versions of a Bloody Mary crafted with Distillery 98’s local Dune Laker Vodka, all hoping for imbibers to cast their vote (in the form of a poker chip) in their buckets. There were roasted pepper concoctions, green tomato renditions, and lots of spice (on the rim and in the glass) to sample.
2022 marked the Seventh Annual Festival, benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Walton County for the past five years. The venue, The Market Shops, is located at the entrance of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort—it features unique retailers like Mountain High Outfitters, specialty boutiques, and a variety of eateries from Ben & Jerrys to Clean Juice to Pizza by the Sea and more. The food for the event is a smattering of options from the restaurants in the shops. I couldn’t stay away from Tuscany Italian Bistro’s table. The meatballs were tender and redolent with garlic and spices and served in their homemade red sauce. And don’t get me started on the Italian sausage—they were the perfect foil to a spicy bloody mary.
For the non-bloody mary drinkers, local craft brews and sparkling wine were available, as well as hydration stations. A lounge area, high-top tables, and cornhole were set up on the green in front of the main stage. Up above, a seating area with a big-screen TV ensured nobody missed the weekend football games. Shore Thing Cigars provided a cigar bar, a mix of live and DJ music filled the air, and a photo booth rounded out the experience.
But the main event was the rows of bloody mary tasters. Some blends had a seafood undertone, others were sprinkled with black truffle, there was pickle brine, and then there was kimchi bringing the funk.
And not-to-be-missed was the brown bag filled with Parlor Doughnuts—the mini, sugar-dusted bites provided the perfect sweet finish.
Every year a panel of food critics and local celebrities judged each bloody mary on taste, presentation, garnish, spice, color, and texture. In 2022, they added “Best Bloody Accoutrement” for the most creative toppings. In addition to the judges’ awards, the highly coveted first-, second-, and third-place People’s Choice Award, selected by votes by each guest in attendance, was up for grabs.
“This is an event we look forward to hosting every year,” said Rob Duncan, Vice President of CenterCore Properties. “We are honored to contribute to a great cause like Habitat for Humanity and showcase the area’s best in local food, entertainment, and shopping with an event that you don’t want to miss.”
Participants change from year to year, but in 2022 they included local favorites Auston’s on 98, The Beach House, Camille’s at Crystal Beach, Chanticleer Eatery, Chiringo, The Henderson, Louis Louis/The Red Bar, Ovide, The Ruby Slipper Café, Signature Catering of 30A, Sunset Bay Café, SunQuest Cruises, Emeril’s Coastal, and Party Fowl.
The Beach House nabbed first place for the People’s Choice, with Camille’s at Crystal Beach coming in a close second, and Chiringo winning third. The judges overwhelmingly chose Chiringo as their fave for its funky kimchi flavor, and awarded Best Accoutrement to Camille’s at Crystal Beach. The field presented dilly green beans, pickled okra, and stalks of celery, but Camille’s pickled shrimp, pickled veg, goat cheese stuffed peppadew, and smoked jalapeno stuffed with bacon jam was a meal of salty, briny, tangy yumminess. All awards were custom-made by local artist Maxine Orange.
If you’ve been to The Market Shops, you know parking can be a challenge, but additional parking and a complimentary shuttle to and from Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort are always available from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the day of the festival. And if you are traveling from out of town, special room rates are available through the festival’s official lodging sponsors.
Over the past six years, the annual event has raised over $130,000 for local charities, including this year’s recipient Habitat for Humanity – Walton County, a local nonprofit housing organization that builds and improves homes in partnership with individuals and families in need of affordable housing. Homeowners help construct their own homes alongside Habitat volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. The $60 donation to attend allows guests to enjoy unlimited samples of South Walton’s most coveted bloody marys and serves the community as well. And bloody marys never tasted as sweet as this year when a check for $50,000 went towards building those new homes.
“We appreciate The Market Shops for naming us the benefactor of the Seventh Annual Bloody Mary Festival,” said Teresa Jones, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity – Walton County. “The funds they raise are crucial for us to continue building homes, community, and hope in Walton County. Like many nonprofits, COVID-19 hit us hard and slowed our building capacity when it was needed the most. The success of this event directly supports our efforts to increase the number of homes we are able to build in a year.”