You don't have to go all the way to Louisiana to get your Cajun food fix this weekend. You can get a taste of the bayou right on Hilton Head Island at the annual Cajun Food Festival benefitting the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association on Saturday at Shelter Cove Community Park.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO
In addition to the obvious appeal -- the food -- this year's festival will feature live music by Chris Jones and Liquid Ginger and an outdoor business expo.
"It's just a fun festival," said Island Recreation Association Special Events Director Joe Cain. "Celebrate the fall. Cool weather is upon us. Enjoy some great Cajun food. ... There's really something for the whole family."
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If you're planning on skipping the event to watch football, stop right there. You can have your game and eat your gumbo, too. Custom Audio Video will bring TVs to the festival, and organizers will have college football games playing for fans to enjoy.
Moms and dads can bring along their little ones for a cultural lesson, and they might not want to leave. The Kids Zone features bounce houses, games, and arts and crafts.
And all the fun is in the name of a good cause. Money raised goes to the recreation association's scholarship fund. The Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association and local restaurants are working with the association to ensure no child is denied participation in its programs for financial reasons.
Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe, the Bluffton Oyster Co., Palm Key Catering and Events, Wild Wing Cafe, Street Meet and the SERG Restaurant Group will offer a variety of food at Saturday's event. Gumbo, shrimp and oyster po' boys, fried shrimp and oysters, red beans and rice, jambalaya, crawfish Ã©touffÃ©e and beignets are some of the Cajun dishes on the menu.
But there will be plenty of non-Cajun cooking, too. Hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, snow cones, beer and soda also will be available. Guests can purchase $1 tickets for food and beverages.
Cain said about 1,500 people attended last year's festival -- and that was on an overcast day. Kenny B's owner Kenny Ballard said his authentic Cajun eatery serves about 20 gallons of gumbo every year at Cajun Fest. He also sold about 1,000 beignets last year.
For Ballard, the festival is a family affair. His wife and two sons will be working the event, and their new dog, Chowder, will be there to provide moral support. Ballard said he brings a portable kitchen to the festival each year so he and his crew can fry seafood on site.
"I just think it's a class act -- what they do over there," Ballard said about the Island Recreation Association. "It's a good fundraiser for them."