Fall is just down the road in the South Carolina’s Lowcountry, which means festival season is here in Bluffton, the charming historic village nestled on the banks of the May River. For over two hundred years, life in Bluffton has reflected the rhythm of the river and the waterways, and its whimsical and eccentric nature has endeared it to artists, artisans, musicians and writers. One of the original homes of the coastal Gullah people, today Bluffton is an engaging mix of old and new, combining an appreciation of its heritage and culture with a vibrant arts scene.
The highlight of the autumn season is the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, which runs from October 15th to 23rd, celebrating fresh-from-the-water seafood and the talent of the local arts community. The festival gets underway on Saturday, October 15th with the popular Heritage Discovery Tour, a lively Gospel concert from the Hallelujah Singers and an authentic Gullah supper with music and storytelling. Sunday features The Friends of Bluffton local artist showcase on Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton, and the boat parade and Blessing of the Fleet on the river. After the sun goes down, the music heats up as the oysters are roasted at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. Oyster knives and cocktail sauce are provided – just bring your lawn chair.
A Monday night tour and dinner buffet at the Waddell Mariculture Center is followed by a demonstration of the ancient art of crab-pickin’ and oyster-shuckin’ from the ladies of the Bluffton Oyster Company.
Book lovers don’t want to miss Wednesday’s event. October 19 is Author Night, remembering the life and works of the late Pat Conroy, the best-selling writer whose love of his Lowcountry home was beautifully expressed in his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Water is Wide. A new event will be held on Thursday evening: a wine tasting, presenting reds, whites and sparklings expertly paired with seafood hors d’oeuvres. On Saturday and Sunday, The Arts & Seafood Street Fest located on Calhoun Street in the historic district includes a juried art show, live music, and Bluffton seafood – shrimp, oysters, scallops, blue crabs – and barbecue for the “landlubbers”. Children have their very own art show, Art in the Park, and even a fishing tournament and magic show. Street dances, a 10K road race, a 5k family road race, and an Iron Chef competition round out the festivities. “Rockin’ the Dock” on Saturday night, October 22, at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park is a rousing good time with great music from local bands, a seafood tasting extravaganza and the fireworks grand finale.
History and wildlife tours of the May River are on the schedule from Monday through Saturday as well as Kayak and PaddleBoard tours. For more information on schedules and pricing, please visit www.blufftonartsandseafoodfestival.com.
Beer lovers should also look forward to the autumn festival season in Bluffton. The 12th Annual Beer & Brats Festival on Saturday, October 1, provides a little Oktoberfest in the Lowcountry, complete with Oompah band and Classic Car Show. The 6th Annual Bluffton International & Craft Beer Fest on Saturday, November 5, features specialty brews at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. This event is known to many as the “The Best Little Beer Fest in the USA” and includes over 180 unique beers from more than 70 breweries in the world.
The vibrant Palmetto Bluff community, located a few miles down May River Road from Old Town Bluffton, welcomes guests to its Tenth Helping of Music to Your Mouth Festival from November 16 to 20. The event features a four-day music, food, and wine celebration, highlighting renowned chefs and favorite musicians. Always a sold out event, this is a highlight of the Southern fall festival season.
Bluffton, the heart of the Lowcountry, invites you to enjoy its many charms – the food, the arts, the heritage and the people who call it home… Linger a little longer for a memorable experience of legendary Southern hospitality at its finest.