June 2020

21 Faces of Lowcountry Hospitality: Gregg Russell

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Each year, according to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, more than 2.5 million visitors make their way onto our 12-by-5-mile-long island. This means that, during the course of the year, there are 62.5 visitors to every one local resident.

Never before have we been so aware of how much our visitors mean to the economy of Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and the surrounding Lowcountry. Tourists and the taxes they pay keep resident taxes lower, help pay for our roads, schools, parks, arts & music programs, festivals and more. They keep our restaurants full and shops and eco-tourism thriving. How many restaurants do you think this island would be able to support with only 40,000 full-time residents?

This month, we celebrate a few Lowcountry residents who are on the front lines of guest satisfaction and have been for years—the people who help make a trip to the Lowcountry special in some way: a fishing guide who helps a guest hook that elusive cobia; a bartender who serves dad his first beer after a 10-hour drive from Ohio; the real estate agent who spends his entire weekend showing a soon-to-retire couple property in our area; a local musician who gets your kids up on stage to dance as the sun sets for that perfect vacation photo; the shop owner who remembers that you come here every April and remembers what beer you buy.

Gregg Russell
Musician/Entertainer,Sea Pines Resort

Gregg Russell has been entertaining visitors to Sea Pines Resort underneath the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town for 44 years. You’ve probably heard him belt out “Booger in the Sugar” to a throng of squealing children at least once if you are a regular vacationer on Hilton Head Island, and if you haven’t, you’re missing out. In addition to being a nationally known singer who has shared the stage with Steve Martin and the Beach Boys, Russell also starred in Come Away Home, a film about a girl named Annie who is forced to stay with her grandparents on Hilton Head Island one summer. When not singing under the Liberty Oak, Russell and his wife Lindy are busy operating Hilton Head Heroes, a charitable organization that gifts vacations to terminally ill children and their families.

What question are you most frequently asked by our visitors?
Believe it or not, the question I get asked the most is, “Where is the lighthouse?” It’s that big red and white thing sticking up directly behind me.

If you could advise our visitors to do just one thing while they were here, what would it be?
I would get a lawn chair and go sit at the Sea Pines Circle, have a beverage and just watch the fun.

What is the most requested song at your show?
The most requested song (if you’re four years old) is the “Booger in the Sugar” song. Adults like the song I wrote about Hilton Head Island, called “Come Away Home.” Those are the two most requested.

What is your favorite song to sing?
“I love this Harbour.” I open with it every single night, and it speaks to my relationship with Harbour Town.

How long have you lived on Hilton Head Island, and what do you love most about it?
I’ve lived here ever since I finished grad school, so it’s been a long, long time. It just feels like home to me—first day I arrived here it felt like home. I’ve never moved away and never will. This is it.

Favorite annual event or festival?
Well, I love the RBC Heritage; having our friends from CBS come in and all the players. Living right here in Harbour Town it’s such a great time—a great event. I’m so glad it’s coming back in June.

Unofficial poll: Where do most of our visitor’s hail from?
Most of our visitors—are you kidding me?! I could run for the governor of Ohio.

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