The largest group of artists in the history of the Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival will line Calhoun Street as the town hosts its eighth annual celebration from Sunday to Oct. 21, with the largest event -- the artist street fair -- closing the street Oct. 20-21.
"We're getting bigger and bigger all the time," said Dave Dickson, chairman for the Arts Committee. "Our ultimate goal was to have 100 artists and this year we have reached that."
Artists vary from painters to photographers to wood and glass craftsmen.
Bluffton artist Murray Sease is one of 19 from Beaufort County in the juried show.
"I've always felt that it's really been top-notch work (at the festival)," she said. "I'm sure this year will be no different, just bigger."
Sease has been painting for three or four years, but has a background in graphic design.
For Dickson, the 100-mark is an important achievement. When he first started helping with the festival about five years ago, there were 38 artists in the show. This year, there were 140 applications.
Dickson attributed the committee's overwhelming response to this year's show to extra advertising and a growing respect for Bluffton.
"The quality of our show... Our reputation is spreading, not only by the visitors, but by the artists," he said.
Nancy Strailey, a returning artist based in Columbia, said word-of-mouth is the most powerful way to get artists for a show.
"We did it based on recommendations from friends," she said. "We have also passed that word along."
Strailey specializes in colored pencil drawings of African animals on handmade paper.
"My husband is a particular expert about shows. This year we've been in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Florida and so forth," she said. "We rely on the experiences of our friends, and most of these shows have been going on for a long time, so you're kind of familiar with how things work."
Sease has attended the festival the past few years, but this year will be her first to have a booth and be part of the juried show.
There are 35 new artists listed to come, Dickson said. Artists come from 10 states, but most are from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.
Dickson said he does not plan to have more than 100 artists next year.
"One hundred fills the street and it gives us a good variety," he said.
Strailey said she noticed the diversity of the show last year.
"It was a delightful surprise," she said. "The community seemed to be very interested in art."
Some local artists, including Sease, also will be participating in a smaller show Sunday, the first day of the festival.
The Friends of Bluffton Artists First Invitational Artist Showcase will showcase almost 70 artists from the Lowcountry. Most of the artists are not in the larger show the next weekend.
Diane Dean, one of the organizers of the event, said the organization hopes to continue the tradition in the future.
"We think it will be a really fun way to kick off the week," she said. "Every year, the seafood festival asks us to line up artists to demonstrate the entire week. We thought it'd be good to do something a little different than just having a schedule of different people."
Dean said the show would allow people who are less involved with the Old Town galleries to showcase their works. For those who show in the galleries, it's an opportunity to show more than two pieces.
"I think going to be an exciting event, and hopefully the first of many," she said.