Food & Drink

Seafood and seascapes: Bluffton Arts and Seafood starts Saturday, a kick-off packed with events

Marlena Smalls and Hallelujah Singers
Marlena Smalls and Hallelujah Singers Submitted photo

Eight days may seem like a long time for a festival, but when you have seafood to eat, art to admire and acquire and more than 30 separate activities to feature, the time can fill up fast.

"... We truly wanted to make a signature event for our residents and our visitors," said festival president Mary O'Neill. "And to do that, you have to give visitors a reason to stay."

Started as a one-day event in 2004, the Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival has grown to include a variety of art and gallery events, a boat parade and Blessing of the Fleet, kayak tours and river excursions, educational tours, children's activities, a two-day street festival and a long list of other activities.

What that means, O'Neill said, is that visitors can look forward to a high caliber of art, seafood and music.

In fact, this year the festival will feature a gospel concert starring Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the festival's opening day. The legendary singers have performed for the Queen of England and the United States Congress and headlined at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

After the Saturday concert, Sallie Ann Robinson, author of "Gullah Home Cooking The Daufuskie Way" and "Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon and Night" will prepare an authentic Lowcountry Gullah dinner. Robinson has been featured in The New York Times as well as on the Food Network, QVC and the Travel Channel.

In addition to the concert and dinner, Saturday's lineup also will feature a self-paced history tour.

The Bluffton Heritage Discovery Tour -- to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday -- will highlight "the remarkable people and events that have contributed to the charm and character" of Bluffton.

The tour will include stops at historic churches, cemeteries and other properties and will highlight the area's "hidden history" as Carolyn Coppola, executive director for Celebrate Bluffton, calls it.

So much of the area's history, particularly Gullah heritage, is either undocumented or handed down from one generation to the next, Coppola said.

"That's why it's so important for us to look at these physical sites to support that oral tradition," she said.

Tickets are $30 for the daylong tour and celebratory concert.

The cost for the Gullah dinner following the concert is $25, and benefits the Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Tickets are available for the dinner only and dinner guests may also attend the concert. To register for the tour and dinner call 843-706-0694 or visit Group discounts are also available.

The festival runs through Oct. 18.

For a complete schedule of events, visit

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at

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