PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (May 13, 2014) – “Healthy living and raw honey go together like summer and sunshine.” In Gulf County, summer has officially kicked off as the 24th Annual Tupelo Honey Festival quickly approaches (Saturday, May 17) and the 2014 Tupelo Honey harvest swings into full bloom.

Contrary to popular belief, Tupelo Honey is not connected to Tupelo, Mississippi. This pure honey is named after the white tupelo gum tree – which happens to be at its happiest standing in about two to three feet of water in the Apalachicola River basin in and around Wewahitchka, Florida. In fact, “Wewa” is home to some of the highest concentration of these trees – and hence these bees – in the world. Apiaries have been harvesting authentic Tupelo Honey up and down the banks of the river since the late 1800’s.

The tradition continues this season. Brian Bertonneau, owner of Smiley Honey – voted best artisanal American honey by Food & Wine Magazine – says it’s a little early to tell exactly how this year’s crop will turn out, but the good news? The bees are happy. “Three to four years ago colony loss was a problem for all of us. But now we “make splits” in the fall and spring. We take half of the bees from a healthy hive and put them into a new bee box with a new queen. So, when the nectar starts flowing in the Spring, there’s lots of room to capture every drop. This has made a big difference in keeping the hives strong.”

What’s so special about Tupelo Honey? Because of the content from the tupelo nectar, this honey will likely never crystalize. It stays liquid, has a low sucrose content (perfect for anyone trying to cut sugar out of his/her diet), and some say it even has health benefits that help with seasonal allergies.

Want to know more? What’s the difference between white Tupelo and black Tupelo? Ever had Tupelo Honey ice cream? (Sounds delicious, huh?)

Or, just want a direct line right to the bees? Meet Brian and Jennifer.

Jennifer, executive director for Gulf County’s Tourist Development Council, will share all the details of the upcoming Tupelo Honey Festival as well as a preview of what you can expect from a trip to Gulf County. As one big outdoor playground, Jennifer will share stories that can round out any trip – kayaking in the Dead Lakes, eco-touring down the Apalachicola River or taking a breezy drive to the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches.

Jennifer will be joined by Brian, owner of Smiley Honey. Smiley’s started in 1989 and is one of the larger honey businesses found in Wewahitchka. Ever heard of the Tupelo Honey Café? Yup; you guessed it. Smiley Honey supplies all of the honey to this growing family of restaurants. Brian keeps in contact with other “beekeeper partners” in the region and offers a great perspective on bees, Tupelo Honey production and this 2014 harvest.

Jennifer and Brian are both available for telephone interviews starting today, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

About Gulf County Florida

Located in Northwest Florida, Gulf County boasts 43 miles of natural shoreline. Here, where water surrounds us, we don’t have high-rises or busy highways and never will. We have white-sand beaches facing westward into spectacular sunsets – on the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay. We have beckoning bayous, unexpected wildlife encounters and the mysterious Dead Lakes. We’ve got seaside bike trails, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and snorkeling. We have genuine places, like the historic Indian Pass Raw Bar and flavors like Tupelo Honey. Learn more about this “no worry, no hurry” destination at www.visitgulf.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.