Spring is already in full flower when March comes to Hilton Head Island, and one sure sign is the return of the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival. For almost 40 years, discerning fans of food and fun from all across the United States come to our island to savor the spring and celebrate the good life here.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

This year marks the third that The Shops at Sea Pines Center is selected as the setting for Sip and Stroll, the Wednesday evening, March 22, event that sets the tone for the 10-day gala.

“We are so pleased to offer our festival friends this experience,” said Jeff Gerber, Executive Director of the Wine & Food Festival. “The merchants at The Shops at Sea Pines Center have gone out of their way to enhance the Sip and Stroll experience. In addition to the wonderful selection of stores, they have added art and music, creating an atmosphere unlike any other.”

The Shops at Sea Pines Center will once again dedicate its efforts to local arts and causes. This year’s Sip and Stroll includes a pop-up art market exhibiting the work of more than a dozen local artists that festival ticket holders can peruse. Celebrated Lowcountry singer-songwriter Sara Burns will perform, and the Shops at Sea Pines Center will again present a performance by the accomplished local band, The Nice Guys.

A Hit From the Beginning

The Sip and Stroll event joined the festival lineup in 2015.

“It has been a hit ever since,” said Jeff, “and the move to The Shops at Sea Pines Center helped us take the event to the next level.”

Part of a 10-day series of events, Sip and Stroll is the relaxed, Wednesday interlude from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“And it’s an especially lovely time of day in that setting,” Jeff said.

The burgeoning craft beer scene around Hilton Head served as source for what is becoming one of the festival’s favorite events. Craft Beers at the Beach was added to the festival last year, and it proved to be a hit. This year it will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 19, in the Grand Ocean Terrace at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa.

A Menu of Celebrations

Among the seven festival events that stretch from March 16 through 25 is the signature Public Tasting, which will unfold fittingly at Celebration Park off Pope Avenue, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 25. The popular main event will feature more than 250 wines from all over the world, as well as chefs competing with their creations in the Sysco Outdoor Gourmet Challenge, live entertainment, and more.

Known simply as WineFest among longtime Islanders, the Public Tasting also features a beer garden, serving local craft beers. In addition, a silent auction of award-winning wines will benefit the John and Valerie Curry Scholarship Fund.

Local Tradition, National Attraction

“The Festival brings about $3.5 million to the local economy each year,” Jeff said, “and the efforts of our organizers and volunteers raise tens of thousands for charity.”

As a well-loved Hilton Head Island tradition for 38 years, Jeff reminds us “there are folks nearby and across the country who say this is just not to be missed.”

At The Shops at Sea Pines Center, we are thrilled to welcome back the festival to our plaza. Hosting the Sip and Stroll has proven to present a harmony of people, places, and things to do. Folks tell us it is a memory they look forward to recreating year after year.