October 2014

10th Annual Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.

A funny thing about event management is that if you do your job well and your event is successful, it’s likely that the event will grow bigger the next year, and again the year after that, and so on. Yes, your reward for all your hard work is more hard work. Bluffton’s Mary O’Neill must be feeling that right now as the president of the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival looks forward to the event’s 10th anniversary Sunday, October 12 through Sunday, October 19 in and around historic Old Town Bluffton.

“We started 10 years ago,” O’Neill recalled. “It was just a one-day event. Then it grew to a weekend the following year; ever since then, we’ve had a full week of activities.” A jam-packed full week of activities is a more apt description of this event, which has been recognized as a “Top-20 Event in the South” by the Southeast Tourism Society. “I’m kind of proud of that,” O’Neill added.

The festival is really a celebration of life and culture all over the Lowcountry, but mostly Bluffton. Its aim is to showcase, as the name implies, the arts and locally harvested seafood. The 10th Annual edition gets underway with kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard races on the May River at 10 a.m. on October 12, followed by Friends of Bluffton Artists’ 3rd Annual Invitational Artists Showcase, an exhibition of local artists’ work on the streets of Old Town at 11 a.m. A traditional opening ceremony, the Blessing of the Fleet and Boat Parade follow, starting at 4 p.m.; and day one wraps up with Oyster Fest, the season’s first oyster roast at Bluffton Oyster Factory Park.

Monday’s main event is a Dinner and Learn Tour at Waddell Mariculture Center on the shores of the Colleton River off Sawmill Creek Road at 5:30 p.m. Following that, the ladies of the Bluffton Oyster Company will give a Crab-Pickin’ and Oyster-Shuckin’ demonstration and treat visitors to a dinner buffet of chicken and seafood gumbo. Also, beginning Monday, kayak, paddleboard and boat tours of the May River will be offered through Saturday, starting at 8 a.m.

The whole shebang culminates with the Art and Seafood Street Fest in Old Town, which features a juried art show exhibiting the works of over 100 local and regional artists, music by popular local bands and singer/songwriters performing on three stages and, of course, food—lots of Lowcountry cuisine and seafood served up by area restaurants. Art and Seafood Fest runs Saturday from 10 AM-5 PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM.

“We try to have something in the festival for everyone,” O’Neill said, “but we have stuck with our mission statement, which is to highlight what we call the ‘gems of Bluffton’: the May River, our salt water estuaries, the art and the culture and the history of our community.” Throughout the festival area, environmentalists will be on hand to educate and inform about natural resources and conservation practices. Both the Town of Bluffton and Beaufort County have taken notice of the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival’s efforts at championing the conservation cause, naming the week of the festival “Water Quality Week” in Beaufort County.

The festival is an all-volunteer organization and, although not intended as a fundraising event, any surplus revenue from sponsorships and vendor fees is donated to Waddell Mariculture Center. “It’s just our gift back to the community,” O’Neill said.

C’mon now! If that doesn’t get you into a Bluffton State of Mind… 
For more visit the 10th Annual Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival online at BlufftonArtsandSeaFoodFestival.com or call (843) 757-BLUF (2583).

Schedule of Events:
· Cooking the Gullah Way, a demonstration by celebrity chef and author Sallie Ann Robinson (Tues., noon).
· Author Night with local Gullah-Geechee storyteller Louise Cohen and bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry (Wed., 5:30 PM).
· Wine Tasting with seafood hors d’oeuvres pairings at Corks Wine Company (Thurs., 6 PM).
· 10K Road Race/5K Fun Run (Sat., 8 AM
· Kayak and Children’s Fishing Tournaments (Sat. 8 AM and 10 AM respectively).
· The Art of Cuisine Iron Chef Challenge at Neptune’s Galley (Sat., 11 AM).
· Art in the Park, educational art activities for kids (Sat., 2 PM).
· Rockin’ on the Dock, seafood tasting, music and fireworks (Sat., 6 PM).

You can download a full schedule of events with all the details at BlufftonArtsandSeafoodFestival.com. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Printer Friendly 2014 Event Schedule.”

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