Flocking South

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The tourist season is over, but the snowbird season is just getting started and many are flying in this week to nest for the winter.

Luke Pinegar, the executive director of Noah's Arc Snowbird Club, says most will stay through February and leave just before spring breakers start flocking south to take their place.

"Our membership each few days is within one or two of what it was last year, and last year was a much better year than it had been in previous years for us."

Noah's Arc Snowbird Club already has almost 300 members, but they expect close to 1,000 this year.

Shirley Evans and her husband Jack wanted to call it quits last year, but decided to come back one more time.

"I guess it was mainly because we have a lot of friends here and a couple of them were really wanting us, and I was told we should all try and make our swan song together. If it's going to be our last year, we'll do it as a group."

Losing the mom and pop motels frustrates a lot of the snowbirds wanting to find affordable beachfront rooms, but the condos aren't keeping them away either.

Cassie Medina, the Reservations Supervisor with By The Sea Resorts, says they are almost booked through the season.

"We've actually had to stop some of our booking for the Beachcomber and the Beachbreak because we've gotten so many from properties that have closed down."

Ron Hunter and his wife just arrived from Ontario, Canada. They haven't been here for two years, so the change comes with quite a shock to the couple.

"The buildings going on, it's just incredible, but I still like the place because it still has that gulf-side feel to the Front Beach Road. All the little shacks and all the little coffee houses and crab shacks, I like it."

And despite change, those who come to Panama City Beach will enjoy the same weather and many of the same friends.