Bluffton truly gives visitors something to rave about this time of the year. With our walkable Old Town and eclectic mix of artist’s studios, eateries and historic sites, not to mention quirky locals and serene setting, Bluffton has never been a town that required much ‘tending to’ when it comes to enticing travelers to stop by. And in mid-spring Bluffton opens its arms to the world both figuratively and literally during the Bluffton Village Festival, known locally also as Mayfest.
Created to give Bluffton residents and visitors a chance to have some hometown fun and be exposed to the amazing craftsmen, artists and musicians in our region, this festival is now in its 36th year! All the fun starts at 10 am on Saturday, May 10 and continues throughout day until 5 pm. Over 200 vendors, including more than 40 new participants this year, gather here from across the South, selling everything from jewelry and artwork to refinished furniture and more. It’s the perfect time to visit Bluffton with Mother’s Day knocking on the door (it’s the next day!) and a great opportunity to snag that one-of-a-kind gift for the mother/grandmother/mentor/friend in your life.
Of course, no Southern fete is complete without great food and the Village Festival will not disappoint. In the past, most of the festival eats were sold by local non-profits – like the ladies of The Church of the Cross offering their beloved shrimp salad sandwiches, crab cakes and shrimp burgers cooked up by local Ronnie Frazier and the “famous Ulmer bread” that was sold by the United Methodist Church of Bluffton.
Over the years the food offerings have expanded and now include a huge variety of delights like hard-wood smoked barbecue, Gullah-inspired foods, burgers and hot dogs, local seafood delicacies, fresh squeezed lemonade, strawberry shortcake, and much more. Yes, the famous shrimp salad sandwiches are still a hot ticket (so get there early to procure yours before they sell out) and I’d be remiss to not forewarn ya’ll to save room for the astonishing homemade baked treats that line table after table along Old Town’s Calhoun Street.
Bring your appetite, good walking shoes, sunscreen and cash because you’ll want to see it all and probably take some home with you too! Local honey and preserves, breads, candy, cheeses, seafood and more will tempt and fill up your shopping bag with ease – some folks even bring small coolers to safely stash those shrimp sammies and sweets, giving them plenty of time to keep on ‘festing!
Besides browsing and eating, there’s a whole range of activities to take in at the Village Festival. Two crowd favorites are the Ugly Dog contest, celebrating its 26th year, and the second annual Pie Eating Contest. The quirky and unpredictable Ugly Dog Contest is once again sponsored by Richard Coffield of May River Realty. All ugly dogs are welcome to enter, with the “top” three dogs receiving a coveted trophy by local potter, Jacob Preston.
Contestants of all ages are encouraged to participate in the pie-eating contest where they will race to see who can devour a tasty pie the fastest. The mouth-watering pies will be prepared by local bakery, The Sugaree. Entertainment adds a lively air to the scene and will include the Sun City Cloggers, Bluffton School of Dance and music by Bill Dupont and Willie Cohen, Jr. throughout the afternoon.
For the past several years the Village Festival has been coordinated and run by the Rotary Club of Bluffton who has successfully maintained the unique spirit of the festival, while continuing to offer more ways for locals and visitors to get involved. Hats off to them for knowing how to throw a GREAT street party!
Bluffton Village Festival
Saturday, May 10th
10 am – 5 pm
Old Town Bluffton
FREE admittance with food, beverages, arts & crafts, and various goods sold individually by vendors. Friendly dogs are welcome at the festival on a leash. Several of the pet nonprofits provide water and a swimming pool for hot dogs!
Free parking will be available at Red Cedar Elementary School with free shuttle services to Calhoun Street running continuously from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The buses are air conditioned, and there will be one bus designed for guests with disabilities. Transportation provided by Palmetto Breeze. Directions to Red Cedar Elementary: click here for the event web page.