On the breeze of an early evening in the early spring, the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival will celebrate its annual Sip and Stroll from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, in the lovely plaza amid The Shops at Sea Pines Center. Noteworthy wines, craft beers, and spirits are here to be savored in an atmosphere enriched by local musicians, local artists, local restaurants, and local businesses. Discerning browsers gather from near and far for an evening that sets the mood for this six-day celebration.

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

To the Next Level

The Sip and Stroll joined the festival lineup in 2015. “It has been a hit ever since,” said festival Executive Director Jeff Gerber, “and the move to The Shops at Sea Pines Center last year helped us take the event to the next level. They were a tremendous partner and spearheaded us being able to add artists and live music to the experience.

“This took a solid event and moved it up about three levels to what has now become an amazing evening,” said Jeff. “We look forward to building on the success of last year and in years to come.

Too Important to Cancel

Seems less than yesterday that The Shops at Sea Pines Center first hosted the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival’s Sip and Stroll. The relaxed and carefree reception of this celebrated six-day event took place here last September, postponed from March for precautions.

“It was just too important to cancel,” Jeff said. “The festival brings about $3.5 million to the local economy each year, and the efforts of our organizers and volunteers raise tens of thousands for charity.”

As a well-loved Hilton Head Island tradition for 37 years, Jeff reminds us, “There are folks nearby, and across the country, who say it is just not to be missed.”

Local Attractions and Local Causes

Local boutiques and restaurants make The Shops at Sea Pines Center a drawing card for the festival’s national following.

“We provide scholarships for deserving students at the University of South Carolina–Beaufort and at Technical College of the Lowcountry in their hospitality management and culinary programs, so ‘local’ is vitally important to us,” Jeff said.

Over the past eight years alone, the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival raised more than $94,000 for scholarships, and the festival added a $20,000 donation to TCL to help build its new culinary program kitchen.

The Sights and Sounds of Local Artists

“Thanks to Pam White, our sipping and strolling is even more enjoyable,” Jeff said.

Herself a noted local artist, Pam used the success of the seasonal First Thursdays Art Market among The Shops at Sea Pines Center – and the festival’s astute national audience – to attract local artists to exhibit and sell at the Sip and Stroll. This year, the artist lineup will include an eclectic group of artists working in various mediums. Among those participating are Susan Ballard, Barbara Banghart, Paul Downs, Julie Harden, Amos Hummell, Siri Kerr, Denise Liotta, Jack Neades, Kathy Oda, Genia Silver, along with author Beverly Jennings, and, of course, Pam White.

The pleasure of strolling through a musical interlude will come this year from The Jazz Corner favorites Davey Masteller and Martin Lesch; from everyone’s favorite party band for any occasion, La Bodega; and from the gentle insights of homegrown singer-songwriter Sara Burns.

In addition, the Artists of Sea Pines gallery, located in the CSA Community Center and showcasing the work of over two dozen artists who live and work right here in Sea Pines, will be open during the event, as will VIVID Gallery, featuring the stunning photography of Sea Pines Center’s own resident-artist, Jeff Keefer.

A Week-Long Festival

Sip and Stroll at The Shops at Sea Pines Center is part of a six-day series of events that make up the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival. Sip and Stroll is the relaxed Wednesday interlude.

“It’s an especially lovely time of day in that setting,” Jeff said. “And The Shops at Sea Pines Center have really welcomed us with open arms.”

The largest of the seven festival events, the Public Tasting, will fittingly unfold at Celebration Park, off Pope Avenue, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 26, featuring more than 250 wines from all over the world. Known simply as “WineFest” among longtime Islanders, the Public Tasting will feature live entertainment, chefs in action, and a beer garden featuring local craft beers are added attractions. A silent auction will benefit the John and Valerie Curry Scholarship Fund.

New This Year

Craft Beers at the Beach is the title and the vibe of an event that is added to the festival this year, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, on the oceanfront deck at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. The burgeoning craft beer scene around Hilton Head served as the inspiration – and the source – for what seems sure to become one of the festival’s favorite events.

Worth the Wait

“The festival certainly built a faithful following over the years,” Jeff said. “Fresh locations, new exhibitors, new entertainment, and the wholehearted way our community pitches in – they all came together again to attract a sell-out level of interest for March. We’re glad to be back, and we’re grateful.”

The Shops at Sea Pines Center are grateful to be selected as the setting for another longstanding Hilton Head Island tradition.

For more information or to purchase tickets to any of the events, visit HiltonHeadWineAndFood.com.