CRESTVIEW — The city's cultural "livability" is one of its most attractive assets in luring major businesses to the area, Nathan Sparks, the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council's new president, has said.
Looking back on 2013, the Crestview area can rightfully bask in these artistic and cultural accomplishments that enhance and enrich residents' lives. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
View From the Stage, Crestview's community theatre troupe, presented two full productions in 2013.
Its spring comedy, "See How They Run," brought lots of laughs, mistaken identities, slamming doors and all the fun of British farce to the Warriors Hall Stage.
Just weeks ago, the community paused from frantic Christmas preparations to enjoy a delightful musical version of "A Christmas Carol" presented by the company.
The Florida Chautauqua Theatre in nearby DeFuniak Springs fills a niche with spring, summer and fall Music and More theatre arts courses and youth productions.
Crestview High School's drama program and student chapter of the International Thespian Society's annual spring and fall plays, "Sleepy Hollow" and "Dear Ruth," respectively, were enjoyable, enthusiastic productions.
The Thespians' "Bulldog Idol" spring competition for a second year showcased the vocal talents of students who were winnowed down to five final competitors. Michelle Bryant was declared the winner.
New last year was the fall "Crestview's Got Talent," a Thespian-produced student talent show.
SCHOOL MUSIC PROGRAMS
Attendees of the Crestview High School band's two annual concerts packed the Pearl Tyner Auditorium. In addition, band members, in a variety of ensembles including the four-piece Sax to the Max quartet — appeared in local festivals and venues.
With 120 voices, the Crestview High chorus, under director Kevin Lusk, performed spring and Christmas choral music concerts featuring songs in a variety of genres performed by show and traditional choirs.
School choral and band music concerts, including Baker School and middle school groups, were welcome additions to the community cultural calendar.
Adult choral music resounded throughout the region from the accomplished Schola Cantorum and Okaloosa Chamber Singers community choirs.
Directed by Northwest Florida State College music professor Dr. John Leatherwood and retired former Crestview High choral music teacher Dr. Marilyn Overturf, respectively, the ensembles' spring and Christmas concerts were delightful, professional experiences.
FRED ASTAIRE DANCE STUDIO
David Colón and Erika Moreno, the Main Street dance studio's owners, are stalwart supporters of community arts and charitable organizations and host the Crestview High ballroom dance club.
Studio dancers are fixtures at a variety of community and school events. Dance for Life, their annual late-winter showcase, displayednational and local talents while raising funds for Covenant Hospice.
SISTER CITY PROGRAM
Crestview strengthened its nearly 20-year Sister Cities International relationship with Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, France, through cultural, educational and economic exchanges and community presentations.
In May, 30 student performers with the Northwest Florida State College Soundsations and Madrigals choirs performed in Noirmoutier.
In June, a 22-member delegation helped commemorate America's role in France's World War II liberation and toured an Airbus plant producing components for planes to be assembled in Mobile.
Two University of Nantes students served three-month summer internships at the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, while Crestview High French Club members and girls' soccer players began fundraising for summer 2014 visits to Noirmoutier.
Organizers in area schools presented a gala celebrating the many cultures and nationalities that make up northern Okaloosa County.
More than two dozen countries representing five continents presented cultural displays and performances in Shoal River Middle School's gymnasium in a colorful evening of fun and festivity.
Students from Shoal River Middle School and the school district's English for Speakers of Other Languages program contributed research and set-up assistance as they learned about other cultures.
CRESTVIEW PUBLIC LIBRARY
Masterpieces from area artists — some exhibiting for the first time — filled lobby display cases and covered the library's exhibit wall.
Programs including monthly First Tuesday lectures, special presentations and crafts instruction for children enriched the community's cultural life.
Music at the Library, now in its third year, enhanced weekday evenings with performances by small ensembles and individual musicians.
The library is also headquarters for community cultural groups including Friends of the Arts and the Crestview Sister City Program.
NORTHWOOD ARTS & SCIENCE ACADEMY
Under new Principal Dr. Donna Goode, the school blossomed with regular weekly instruction in visual and performing arts. Students experienced monthly theatrical or music performances, with some produced by the students themselves.
November's reopening of the school's library led to a morning art club where kids draw and peruse art books selected by librarian Kristal Petruzzi.
Educators say that students who participate in the arts excel in "core" subjects including mathematics and science over students who don't.
BAKER BLOCK MUSEUM
Baker Block Museum continued its role in collecting and preserving the north county's heritage in a fun, eclectic repository for artifacts from glass insulators to a backwoods still.
The facility, operated by the North Okaloosa Heritage Society, includes a regional genealogy and research library and archives, and the adjacent Heritage Park collection of historic buildings.
The museum and park were the site of the annual Baker Heritage Festival, a bustling, family-friendly celebration of area folk arts and folkways.
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.