Later Sunday afternoon the 2017 A Taste Of Waddell will be in full swing. If you miss it, you’ll be missing out on some mighty fine vittles, great music and the chance to bid on some awesome items that are up for auction.
The weather is predicted to be picture perfect and sitting there looking out over the Colleton River, it might just make you realize just what is at stake as folks from the entire Lowcountry gather to show their support for this extraordinary facility.
Maybe it is the combination of music by the Lowcountry Boil Band and the warm glow of the setting sun that gets me, but I nearly have a meltdown each year as I take in the smell of the salt marsh and watch the sun reflecting off the water.
“So this is why all these people came to live here,” is always my first thought. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not golf or tennis that bring them here, it’s the water and the incredible sights and smells that are found only right here in the Lowcountry.
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I have no doubt that many transplants to the area think it was something else besides the water that drew them here, but down deep – almost subliminal – it had to be the water that sealed the deal. How could it not affect someone’s decision to pull up roots from a place they have spent most of their lives and pick this particular area to finish out their days? Yep, it was the water whether they knew or not.
I wouldn’t say my wife Karen and I are extremely social types, but this event brings out so many interesting folks it was hard not to engage in conversations. I guess it was because we all had a common thread, and that is making sure the Waddell Mariculture Center is here forever.
I meet people from Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort, Spring Island, Palmetto Bluff and even a few from as far away as Charleston. The common denominator is saving our waters from the effects of over-development, stormwater runoff and making sure that this precious gem, the Waddell Mariculture Center, stays here to help guide all of us to make the right decisions as the process of growth continues.
What surprises me most is the perception folks have about Waddell, especially those that have never visited this facility. Some first-time visitors admit they always thought it might be some secret government facility, especially with of the sign that says “A Bio-Secure Facility” that stands near the front gate. Others think it is simply a fish and shrimp farm. But after taking tours of the grounds usually narrated by Al Stokes, Waddell’s director, nearly all of them have nothing but words of praise for all that they do to ensure our waters stay healthy and protected. But it is the other work – that is somewhat outside the box – that has always impressed me about Al and his staff.
For years, Al has always gone out of his way to answer questions that laypersons such as myself could never answer. I have seen him do it for silly questions that I might have about some fish that I caught and can’t identify, and I have seen him do it for questions that often change the outcome of town meetings where permits might be approved or rejected, especially topics that could seriously impact our water quality. So you see, it isn’t just a shrimp or fish farm.
But for you fishermen, the Waddell Center has done more for you than you ever could imagine. The center has released tens of thousands of redfish over the years, and I can tell you for a fact, there are more redfish today than there were when I moved here 50 years ago. Its cobia studies led to raising and releasing cobia, 10,000 genetically pure Port Royal cobia released this year alone. Through DNA sampling and satellite tagging, the center keeps an eye on the health of our fish populations, and when things look like something is askew, they are on the front lines of determining the cause and finding the cure.
So as I step off my soapbox, I hope you will take the time to pay a visit to the Waddell Mariculture Center and see for yourself what they do there. You won’t find geeky types with pens in their pockets speaking in terms you might never understand, instead you’ll find some of the finest folks around, and it will become instantly apparent that they love what they do. Finally, a special thanks to Dave Harter for all he does to make this event special as well as all of you who contribute time and items that are sure to make this year’s “A Taste Of Waddell” a resounding success!
If you go
- What: Taste of Waddell
- When: 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday
- Where: On the Bluff at the Waddell Mariculture Center, Sawmill Creek Road, Bluffton
- Tickets: $30 per person; blufftonchamberofcommerce.org/events/details/taste-of-waddell-7783