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Fort Walton Beach is a year-round fishing and beach resort community. Its busiest time of the year is the summer, with spring break being another busy time when thousands of people flock to the Emerald Coast.
Fort Walton Beach has a very warm humid subtropical climate. The area experiences hot and very humid summers, generally from late May to mid-September. Autumns, from mid-September to early December, are generally warm. Winters are very short and mild, from mid-December to late February. Springs are warm, from late February to late May.
The economy of Fort Walton Beach is driven by two primary factors: tourism and the military. There are two major Air Force bases which border Fort Walton Beach. Hurlburt Field is home to Headquarters, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the 1st Special Operations Wing, and the Joint Special Operations University. Eglin AFB is home to the Air Force Material Command's Air Armament Center and the 96th Air Base Wing, the 46th Test Wing, and Air Combat Command's 33rd Fighter Wing. Eglin is geographically one of the largest Air Force bases at 724 square miles (1,880 km2), and thus home to joint exercises, and missile and bomb testing. For example, the 'Massive Ordnance Air Blast' or 'Mother of All Bombs' (MOAB) was first tested at Eglin AFB on March 11, 2003.
There is support industry in the area that benefits from the presence of the bases, including military contractors and the service industry. Companies based in Fort Walton Beach include Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken and ResortQuest.
The tourism industry is seasonal, with summer being the primary season, and a smaller peak season during spring break. The Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is held annually.