Gulf Coast Media's Year in Review 2023: Business, community service, entertainment

Lifestyle Editor
Posted 12/26/23

On a dark and chilly night in March 2023, shark fishing outfitters Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny of Coastal Worldwide caught a 10-to-11-foot great white shark from the shore in Orange Beach. Yes, there …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get the gift of local news. All subscriptions 50% off for a limited time!

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Gulf Coast Media's Year in Review 2023: Business, community service, entertainment


On a dark and chilly night in March 2023, shark fishing outfitters Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny of Coastal Worldwide caught a 10-to-11-foot great white shark from the shore in Orange Beach. Yes, there are sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and they don’t want to eat you. The massive great white shark may be the first caught from the shore in Alabama.

Two of the stories that reached the most eyes this year both featured large maritime animals. By the light of a March moon and headlamps, a 10-to-11-foot great white shark was caught at 4 a.m. by shark fishing outfitters Dylan Wier and Blaine Kenny of Coastal Worldwide. Their bait was 600 feet off the shore when the shark took it, and it took 32 minutes from the time it bit the bait to get released back into the Gulf waters. Wier believes it was the fifth great white to be caught from the beach this year on the panhandle, including three by Big John Shark Fishing and one by a man from Texas who was fishing in Pensacola.

The next story came only a week later when Gulf Coast Media found out about a 14-pound, 95-year-old lobster that needed saving. The lobster was delivered to The Angry Crab Shack in Orange Beach through their regular vendor, and customers started to take a liking to the creature they ended up not wanting to pay to eat. An employee there at the time named her Biggie Smalls, started a TikTok for her and pursued efforts to get her shipped to a safe home.

Both stories went viral on GCM's social media channels, bringing a light amid an uncertain time that sometimes a good story with a happy ending is exactly what we need.


Speaking of what we need, Baldwin County is teeming with people who spend their time helping others.

What were you doing in sixth grade? Austin Gontarski was holding a food drive, raising money for those in need and laying the groundwork to create his own nonprofit, Developing Futures Foundation. Now in his senior year at St. Michael’s Catholic High School, Gontarski has continued to feed hungry students in Baldwin County. With young people like him, the future seems bright.

Prodisee Pantry marks 20 years of serving Baldwin County community:

Prodisee Pantry, a nonprofit in Spanish Fort, Baldwin County, has been dedicated to nourishing both the bodies and spirits of residents for the past two decades. Inspired by Matthew 25:35, the pantry provides essential food items and assistance to those in need. What began as a dream at Spanish Fort United Methodist Church in 2003 has evolved into a reality, with volunteers recognized for their crucial role in the community ministry. The pantry celebrated 20 years by having its volunteers tell their stories amid their continuation of service to the community.

Eagle Scout launches reef project to help clean Gulf waters:

John Shell, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout, initiated the Eagle Reef project to restore Gulf Coast waters by deploying mini reefs along Alabama's coast. Constructed with rope, polypropylene and PVC pipes, these reefs host filter feeders, purifying over 30,000 gallons of water daily and attracting fish. Originally planning 50 reefs, Shell raised $52,000 and deployed 175 reefs with community support. Partnerships with environmental organizations and the University of South Alabama ensure proper deployment, maintenance and monitoring of the reefs. Shell's commitment to environmental improvement earned praise from officials and showcases the impact of youth-led initiatives.

Fairhope Eagle Scout provides comfort to Humane animals:

Eagle Scout Brody Gwaltney dedicated 180 hours to create and deliver 10 recycled tire beds for animals at the Baldwin County Humane Society. Combining his passion for recycling and love for animals, Gwaltney used vehicle tires, safe paint, cushions and springs to ensure the beds were sustainable and comfortable. The project showcased his leadership skills, involving fellow scouts in the process. The humane society, reliant on community support, expressed gratitude for the donation, emphasizing the significance of sustainable contributions for the welfare of animals.


One of the byproducts of a growing population is the new and innovative businesses that open and join the classics that have stood the test of time.

Sling Bungee Fitness opened in Fairhope. The innovative workout combines special bungee cords, a rock-climbing style harness and rocking music for a fun and intense workout. The style of workout has been a staple in larger markets and has made its rounds on TikTok. Jessica Watkins, owner and lead trainer of FIT by Jessica and FIT Fairhope, is responsible for bringing the new type of workout to the area.

Are you stressed? A business opened in Daphne that can help you take all of life’s stress and smash your way to relief. Shattered gives you a place to smash, beat and shatter household objects. The best part is they take care of the cleanup. The rage rooms are fun for the whole family or a night out with friends.

A Baldwin County Classic, M & F Casuals, celebrated 50 years of business in Fairhope. The business has deep Baldwin County roots. Ann Miller’s family first opened the M & F Department Store 100 years ago in Foley and Robertsdale. The business passed to Miller’s father and then to Miller and her husband, going from multiple M & F Department Store locations to the final business, M & F Casuals in Fairhope. Miller has seen the retail landscape change and grow in the downtown business district and has proudly stepped aside to watch her daughters take the helm.

Captain Crazy’s Paradise opened on Sept. 9 in Foley as more than just an arcade by positioning itself as a living museum. The establishment, founded by the Harney family, boasts a collection of over 80 vintage arcade games dating back to the 1960s. The family, self-proclaimed lifelong gamers, fulfilled a dream by creating this space. Upon entering, visitors are greeted with a Japanese dojo ambiance, featuring wooden planks and a scene from "The Matrix" on Japanese shoji.


After extended filming in Fairhope, "Love in Fairhope," a Hulu original show, was premiered this year.

The show revolves around five generations of women in Fairhope as they navigate the intricacies of life and love in a close-knit community. In this small town where everyone is familiar with each other, the narrative — which swings between reality and fantasy — explores the unpredictable paths of romantic dreams, passion and inspiration. The centerpiece of some characters' storylines culminates with the Magnolia ball, a fictional event that is not to be missed in the city.

To bring this show to life, Prodisee Pantry is hosting the first 52nd-Annual Magnolia Ball to raise money in efforts to feed the county. Tickets are $75 each and will help pay for two carts full of groceries for those in need. Attendees can expect dinner by Capers in the Kitchen and other local restaurants, along with dancing to the music of Mr Big and the Rhythm Sisters. The event is for those aged 21 and over, and the recommended attire is Fairhope chic.

Kayla Green and Natalie Williamson contributed to this article.