BAKER — After a week of hosting Ireland's top radio personalities, resident Mary Gadeken has her sights set on exploring the Emerald Isle, and her guests are eager to return her hospitality.
"Mary is obsessed with castles so we're going to show her as many medieval castles as possible," Dermot Whelan, co-host of the 98FM show "Laughternoons with Dermot and Dave," said.
He and Dave Moore, of Dublin, were expecting Southern hospitality when they arrived in Baker, but their week in north Okaloosa County far exceeded their expectations, they said.
"It really has been everything we expected and more," Moore said. "We really learned a lot from being friends with Mary."
"Everything they say about Southern hospitality is true," Whelan said.
With their producer, Maria Devereux, and "resident tech nerd," Paul Bonass, the four Irishmen experienced north county culture, sampling food and soaking up local ambience.
On their first night at the Crestview Hampton Inn, a resounding noise kept the jetlagged quartet awake. Finally, with Bonass armed with recording equipment, they investigated.
Playing it back the next day for Gadeken, she laughed and said, "Those are bullfrogs!"
"We don't have those in Ireland," Moore said.
"We have bulls and we have frogs but not the two in one animal," Whelan added. "They were louder than Dave snoring."
Gators and more Gators
Lunch at Baker's Gator Café, holding — and eating — alligators at Fudpucker's, and hoisting a couple of cold ones at Hooters and Johnny O'Quigley's were among their local experiences.
But Moore said there was one Southern icon he avoided during their four-day visit, having experienced it before.
"Mary sent me grits," he said. "I cooked the grits and I ate the grits and I didn't know what was happening to my mouth. I've been to the beach and the beach was in my mouth."
There was one thing the Irishmen especially appreciated during the warmer part of their visit to Okaloosa County.
"My thing is, air-con is a serious requirement here," Bonass said of air conditioning, expressing surprise when Gadeken said, "It isn't even hot yet."
During a visit with Gadeken's friend, Crestview Mayor David Cadle, the radio hosts laughed during a humorous proclamation of "Dermot and Dave Day" in Crestview.
Cadle proclaimed the duo "goodwill ambassadors for Ireland as they visit America, and their presence is an honor for Okaloosa County, the city of Crestview, and the town of Baker."
In return, Cadle received "warmest greetings" in an official scroll from Dublin Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn, praising the "many new friendships" his citizens were forming, "strengthening cordial relationships" between the cities.
Gadeken, strengthening her own cordial relationships with Dublin, is counting down the days until her May 30 trip to see her friends in Ireland.