2019 Event Spotlight

With more sponsors and a new September schedule, change has come naturally to Northwest Florida’s premier healthy living event.

Like everyone else in the Panhandle, Scott and Daralyn Chase have spent the months since Hurricane Michael recalibrating their lives. For the husband-and-wife publishers of Natural Awakenings in Northwest Florida, that process involved shifting the magazine’s signature event, the Emerald Coast Holistic Health Expo, from March to September.

It felt like a big change, Scott says. The Expo is only in its fourth year, but it’s already well established, drawing visitors from well beyond Northwest Florida.

“The landscape for natural and holistic health has expanded massively over the past five years, and the Expo is a testament to that,” he says. “We’ll get anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 attendees—some from Atlanta, Orlando or as far away as Ohio.”

He and Daralyn launched the Expo in March 2016, in response to an obvious trend: From Fort Walton to Destin, new businesses were focusing on natural wellness and green living. With exhibitors and vendors showcasing the latest in fitness, yoga, meditation, nutrition, functional medicine, holistic healing and sustainability, the Expo quickly became an annual gathering place for the healthy living community.

When Hurricane Michael hit last October, the Chases were already making plans for 2019. They looked at the devastation around them, at the flattened homes and businesses, and put those plans on hold.

“We knew that what the Expo offers—natural ways to stay well and balanced physically and emotionally—could actually help people recover from this disaster. But the event itself had to wait,” Scott says. “For all of us locals, the immediate focus became neighbors helping neighbors pick up the pieces of their lives.”

Seasonal Shift

Now, however, a September Expo feels like the most natural thing in the world, Scott says. “The event is about self-care. It makes sense to offer it when the tourists have gone, the kids are back in school, and the rest of us can finally focus on our health and well-being.”

The seasonal shift is just one way the Expo continues to change organically.

While the event has had its stalwart sponsors from year one—like Golden Almond Health Store, in Fort Walton Beach—new ones are stepping up as the holistic health landscape shift. Among this year’s main sponsors, for example, are Surterra Wellness, a statewide medical marijuana dispensary with a Pensacola location, and Empathic Practice, a Pensacola holistic medical practice that includes medical marijuana among its many therapeutic protocols.

“In general, our sponsors and vendors represent a more expansive and inclusive definition of holistic health,” Scott says. “Now there’s medical marijuana and CBD, as well as more nutritional supplements and organic products. We survey our attendees, and 78 percent say interest in these types of products is the main reason they come to the Expo. And the vast majority of attendees say they enjoy the Expo and would recommend it to friends and colleagues. We’re continuing to change and grow in positive ways.”