In a triumph of understatement, Ben Whiteside of the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival committee said that the storied event just grows, expands and becomes better and better every year.
And, by the way, he added, the week of uniquely Bluffton-style activities from Oct. 12 through Oct. 20 has added another phenomenal activity this year, “which will absolutely take our 15th annual event over the top!”
The festival, which opens with the now-famous and sold-out Bluffton State of Mind Supper Soiree, will further please everyone with the all-new Bluffton Historical Cocktail Party at the Heyward House.
A highlight of the Bluffton State of Mind Supper Soiree will be the acknowledgment of two outstanding Bluffton community leaders.
This year, Nancy Golson and Stiles Harper will be recognized and roundly honored for their continuing contributions to the greater Bluffton community.
They will sit at the head of the table on Saturday evening, Oct. 12, when we will find 100 guests seated al fresco, under the moon and stars, at the community’s longest dining table.
Filling Calhoun Street to the brim, and stretching from Lawton Street to Lawrence Street, the festive crowd will first enjoy a social time at 6 p.m. with wine and beer, set against the the music of Spike Ivory, and an outstanding exhibit of artwork created by local artists.
Then the 100 celebrants will move on to a designated place at the l-o-n-g table, and the enjoyment of a gourmet four-course dinner with a generous portion of conviviality, culture, and cuisine in this community collaboration.
Ted Huffman, founder and chairman of the Supper Soiree, pointed out that the event, with dinner prepared by Chef Nate Clepper of The Pearl Kitchen and Bar, and Chef Leslie Rohland of The Cottage, and served by an enormous committee of volunteers, is sponsored by Hilton Head Regional Healthcare and, importantly, the beneficiaries of the proceeds will be the Bluffton Historic Preservation Society and Programs for Exceptional People.
All new to this year’s annual event is the Bluffton Historic Cocktail Party, planned for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Common Ground at the Heyward House. The gracious social event will offer an evening of musical entertainment by Earl Williams, along with an array of appetizers and specialty drinks, served by another cast of dedicated volunteers.
The centerpiece of the festival is the Outdoor Street Fest to be held Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The famous Juried Artist Showcase and Market will line Calhoun Street. More than 100 artists from 10 states will display their work, and local restaurants and caterers will offer seafood dishes ... the bounty from the sea ... along with Lowcountry cuisine. Throughout the day, a variety of musical performances will contribute to the fest.
The 15th Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival really gets going, as always, with the Blessing of the Fleet and Boat Parade on the May River at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the gospel music on the bluff at the Church of the Cross.
The on-the-water events truly signal the official start of the festival, and you can be sure that the local art scene will again be highlighted during the week’s varied and diverse activities.
Dry land events run from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Sunday along Calhoun Street with Art on the Street in the heart of Old Town Bluffton. And you must add to that day, the first oyster roast of the season at Bluffton Oyster Park at 5 pm.
On Monday evening, Oct. 14, from 5 to 6 p.m., tours of the Waddell Mariculture Center will be presented by director Erin Levesque, right on the bluff of the Colleton River. That very important focus is to provide an opportunity to look carefully at our natural resources and, further, to take up the necessary conservation practices that will contribute and ensure their continuation.
Author Night is Wednesday, Oct. 16, when a panel will discuss “Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rotary Community Center in Oscar Frazier Park.
Other continuing events that will involve a broad group of participants are the daily kayak, paddle board and boat tours, Bluffton Self Help’s Sips and Seafood Party at the Heyward House, the Saturday morning Old Town Oyster 10K and 5K run, the children’s fishing tournament and the impressively expanded children’s art activities in the park.
“The Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival is back for the 15th year, and you can see that it is still growing,” said Whiteside. “What started as a one-day event in 2005 has quickly become a jam-packed week of amazing festivities in historic Bluffton ... and through it all, everyone stays focused on our goal of showcasing the arts and locally-harvested seafood. Happily, both have remained constant.”
If you go
For more information and the full schedule of the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival visit www.blufftonartsandseafoodfestival.com or call 843-757-BLUE (2583). Note that some events require reservations and admission fees.