July 2019

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina presents Harbourfest! Summer celebration a benefit to all

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

You know it’s officially summer when you see fireworks lighting up the skies over Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina and Broad Creek on Tuesday nights. The annual HarbourFest tradition that began 31 years ago has become one of the most highly anticipated events for our seasonal guests as well as local residents, many of whom first attended as children and are now bringing their kids and grandkids back to enjoy the same experience.

The celebration features music from the beloved Shannon Tanner, the charming antics of Cappy the Clown, weekly Tuesday night fireworks and a host of family-friendly activities, not to mention spectacular sunsets, gorgeous harbor views, and an array of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and more for your dining and shopping pleasure.

Value added: how HarbourFest benefits our community
As approximately 2.5 million vacationers pour on to Hilton Head Island this summer, it’s obvious that HarbourFest is a tremendous benefit to them, offering a night of free family fun in a lush outdoor setting that highlights both the natural beauty and the vibe of our Lowcountry paradise. The annual community event has grown to be a favorite destination for thousands who attend each week throughout the summer months. But beyond its entertainment value, HarbourFest is a proven asset to our community in terms of attracting new visitors, drawing repeat visitors, supporting local businesses, and stimulating our local economy.

In 2018, the Lowcountry and Resort Island Tourism Institute at USC Beaufort conducted a study to help determine the economic impact of the HarbourFest event. Here’s what they found:

-92 percent of the Shelter Cove HarbourFest attendees were visitors to Hilton Head Island.
- 79 percent were returning visitors to Hilton Head Island.
- 85 percent of the visitors stayed in lodging that generated accommodation tax revenues (i.e. villa/condo rentals, home rentals, and hotels).
- 60 percent had previously been to Shelter Cove HarbourFest.
- 47 percent indicated that the Shelter Cove HarbourFest fireworks display was very influential or influential when initially planning their trip to Hilton Head Island.
- 76 percent indicated that they would return to Shelter Cove HarbourFest.
- 88 percent indicated that they would recommend the festival to friends.

Surrounding businesses are feeling the love. According to Shelter Cove Harbour merchants, HarbourFest brings positive attention to the area and introduces visitors to stores and restaurants they may not have known existed.

“It brings the harbor to life,” said Lynn Alexander, owner of Nash Gallery, a popular art gallery, in business at Shelter Cove Harbour since 1989. “People come down with their families. Then they see us and often come back the next day.”

Philippe and Marissa Feret, owners of Hilton Head Social Bakery, echoed the same sentiment. The flurry of activity during HarbourFest benefits them by making people aware of their location and offerings, increasing their business exponentially. “We have a traditional family event here that’s a generational thing. It definitely draws more people to the marina and is great exposure for us,” Marissa said.

Beyond the direct benefits to the Shelter Cove Harbour businesses and festival vendors, others are reaping rewards as well: hotels, rental agencies, transportation services, tour boat operators, and other area restaurants, and shops. Shelter Cove Towne Centre, in particular, is seeing an uptick related to the popularity of the HarbourFest event—more foot traffic, more restaurant reservations, and more general exposure, according to multiple business owners in the trendy mid-island shopping center.

“It’s been a great fit since we opened Poseidon,” said Alan Wolf, director of operations for SERG Restaurant Group. “The fireworks have been a wonderful way to build Tuesday night, which is typically a slow night for area restaurants. We get to see a tremendous number of families. For both Poseidon and Giuseppi’s, we’re really happy that this event happens in our backyard.”

Keith Walston, owner of Vagabond Cruise, based in Harbour Town, offers three separate fireworks tours on Tuesday nights, aboard The Vagabond, The Spirit of Harbour Town, and the Tammy Jane. These cruises are among his most popular offerings, he said. “It’s always a favorite for our passengers to go up to Shelter Cove. We can get right up underneath the fireworks, and people have a great view of the show. Economically speaking, it represents a significant opportunity for increased revenue on those nights.”

But you, dear resident, are winning too. When you think about it, HarbourFest is just the kind of shot in the arm that helps keep our island amenities in operation year-round. The primary impact is the financial boost to area businesses generated by increased patronage. But the secondary impacts are those that result from the injection of new money into the economy when people who live and work here spend their earnings locally—meaning more capital for the community improvements, services, and conveniences that matter to all of us.

Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann sees both sides of the coin. “I think many residents go to this event. A lot of people have children and grandchildren who want to see the fireworks, and anything that benefits the residents benefits our economy. Anything we try to do in the way of public relations is also important to the residents who live here. It’s part of the equation. Tourism helps us be who we are. I think [HarbourFest] is really worthwhile. It’s a good Hilton Head thing—one of the amenities of living here.”

Looking out over the crowd at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina on HarbourFest nights is like a Norman Rockwell picture come to life—a sea of smiling faces in a serene setting that naturally casts a spell. It’s a place to relax, let your shoulders drop, leave the stresses of the day behind, and have some good, old-fashioned fun. Come for a sunset stroll. Have a cocktail or an ice cream cone; enjoy dinner (reservations recommended); catch musicians performing along the sidewalk; meander in and out of the shops; or simply mingle among the crowd and breathe in the energy and excitement of young and old alike who have discovered the simple pleasures of a summer gathering with family and friends. On Tuesday evenings, stay for the fireworks—sure to evoke a heightened sense of celebration and leave you feeling better about the state of our world.

Whether you are an island resident or one of our treasured guests, you owe it to yourself to get down there and be a part of this annual summer celebration. 

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina is located mid-island, at mile marker 8, across from Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. HarbourFest is free and open to the public, with food and drinks available for purchase. Events are weather-permitting and subject to change. For more information, visit the Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina Facebook page or www.sheltercoveharbourfest.com.

Join the Fun
HarbourFest takes place every Tuesday from 6 p.m. until dark. While fireworks serve as the centerpiece, the party doesn’t end with the Tuesday night extravaganza. Tanner performs his traditional family show Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with shows at 6:30 and 8 p.m. On Thursday evenings, HarbourFest turns into a Caribbean paradise with an event dubbed “Parrot Palooza.” Tanner and his Jimmy Buffett tribute band, the Oyster Reefers, offer free attitude adjustments, starting at 7 p.m. Cappy the Clown is also on hand Monday through Friday from 6-9 p.m.

Fireworks Schedule
Tuesdays after dark*
Thursday: July 4 (*no show on Tuesday July 2)
Tuesdays: July 9, 16, 23, 30
Tuesdays: August 6, 13, 20

Shannon Tanner
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday
Thursday, July 4
Two shows at 6:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Cappy the Clown
Monday through Friday
6-9 p.m.

Parrot Palooza
Thursdays through August 22 with additional shows on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1
Show starts at 7 p.m.
(Regularly scheduled shows on Thursday, July 4.)

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