On Wednesday, March 23, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. the beginning of a lovely spring evening in the plaza of The Shops at Sea Pines Center welcomes guests from all over America to the event that sets the tone for the annual Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival.

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

Sip and Stroll presents noteworthy wines to be savored in an atmosphere enriched by local musicians, local artists, local restaurants, and local businesses.

The most remarkable thing about this special occasion is how normal it is for The Shops at Sea Pines Center. It is a day that fits right in.

Discerning browsers gather from near and far for an evening that secures the mood for the Wine & Food Festival’s six-day celebration. The restaurants and merchants of The Shops at Sea Pines Center add local craft beers; spirits that include the home-grown regional favorite, moonshine; and delectable nibbles to accompany the sipping and strolling.

A generations-long experience with the tastes and desires of Sea Pines residents and visitors ensures that the folks visiting the plaza will discover from our merchants fun things to wear, to give and to enjoy that will make the evening more memorable still.

Too Important to Cancel

It seems like only 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 2021 for precautions.

“It was just too important to cancel,” festival Executive Director Jeff Gerber 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.”

Up a Notch

The Sip and Stroll joined the festival lineup in 2015.

“It has been a hit ever since,” Jeff said, “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,” he added. “We look forward to building on the success of last year, and every year, as we continue this fun tradition.”

An Atmosphere of Art and Music

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.

This year the lineup of artists exhibiting in the plaza during Sip and Stroll will include an eclectic group, working in various mediums. Among those participating are Susan Ballard, Paul Downs, Julie Harden, Amos Hummell, Siri Kerr, Denise Liotta, Jack Neades, Kathy Oda, Genia Silver, and Pam White.

“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.

The Artists of Sea Pines will stage a special exhibit, too, in their customary gallery at the CSA Community Center, around the corner from the plaza. Jeff Keefer’s stunning art photography will be on display in VIVID gallery, with the proceeds devoted, as always, to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

The Fun of Doing Good

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,” Jeff said, “so ‘local’ is vitally important to us.”

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 their new culinary program kitchen.

Sip and Stroll is the relaxed Wednesday interlude in the middle of the festival’s event week.

“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.”