Looking out over the Beaufort River, a grin on his face and a shrimp burger in his hand, Lloyd Simon of St. Helena Island was sure life couldn't get much better.
"I suffered through 50 miserable winters in southeast New Jersey and this is my reward," Simon said. "It's days like this that remind me why I moved down here and why I'm blessed to call this my home."
Simon was one of thousands Saturday who packed Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for the 11th Annual Taste of Beaufort. The two-day festival, sponsored by Main Street Beaufort, USA, offers a chance to sample dishes from 15 local restaurants.
A pair of self-proclaimed "foodies," Ron and Linda Rice of Summerville said they've made a point to visit Beaufort during Taste weekend for the past three years.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
"This is a really great event," said Ron Rice. "It has that hometown feel that you can't get at events like these in bigger cities."
Linda Rice added that the festival calls attention to the skilled chefs of Beaufort's culinary community.
"The people of Beaufort are so lucky to have in a city of this size so many really great restaurants," she said. "It says a lot about the soul of this place."
The event was created 11 years ago by the nonprofit Main Street Beaufort as a fundraiser. Originally held on Bay Street, the event was moved to Waterfront Park a few years ago to relieve traffic congestion, according to organizers.
Organizers expected 8,000 to 10,000 people to attend this year's event.
With the economy pinching many locally owned businesses, Gary Schmidt of Beaufort said Saturday's Taste was particularly important.
"We've gotta support these restaurants and these downtown businesses," Schmidt said. "These folks are our neighbors and our friends, and we should make sure they get through this tough time OK. If we don't, Beaufort will be nothing more than a bunch of big-box retail stores and chain restaurants. We'll be a truck stop."