Pigs, Oysters, And Fun At The 10th Annual Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival

What started out as the David M. Carmines Water Festival has grown in recent years to a fully-fledged weeklong seafood festival now known as the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival, run by local restauranteur and business man, Andrew Carmines. The festival returned to the island for its tenth year from February 20 to 26.

Carmines, owner of Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks and founder of the festival, told the Daily Meal that the event began originally as a memorial for his brother who had passed away. Today, it has morphed into a community celebration, carrying his brother's spirit throughout all of its festivities.

"The festival started as a fundraiser. David, my brother, was an avid outdoorsman who lost a six-year fight with cancer. In its first year, it was held in the parking lot at Hudson's with a crowd of about 300 friends and relatives of David's," he began.

"In 2006, we decided to revive the Seafood Fest, which was one of many events during Spring Fest, a month long celebration on the island. The goal was to hold an event that honored the rich seafood heritage and culture of the area."

While it has taken on many iterations since, the festival is now hosted in the month of February in homage of David's passion and life. "Over the last ten years the event has taken on a life of its own. The full week of events is a real celebration of our lifestyle in the Lowcountry," said Carmines.

All of the individual events showcase the local cuisine of the South, and it brings together some of the best vendors, restaurateurs, bar managers, beverage brands, wine companies and sommeliers under one roof.

While many participants were native to Hilton Head Island, there were other participants like Klet Brda Winery from Slovenia who joined in the festivities. Their wines paired perfectly with some of the spicier dishes, like shrimp and grits, that were being served and celebrated at the festival.

One of the highlights of the fete came at the Cultural Culinary and Heritage Dinner that was produced in conjunction with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. The tasting featured dishes from local restaurants like Lucky Rooster and the likes of the Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Chefs Matthew Beaudin of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

Famed Charleston-based chef Frank Lee (of Slightly North of Broad) hosted a cooking demonstration throughout the festival at Hudson's where he, alongside chef Clayton Rollison of the Lucky Rooster, showed a crowd of hungry home cooks how to make the perfect Southern shrimp and grits recipe.

The spectacular pig pickin' and oyster roast, held at the Waddell Mariculture Center, was a night of savoring oysters, whole hogs, chicken, Brunswick stew, and other comfort food dishes. The Center was strung with beautiful lights while the Asheville, North Carolina-based bluegrass band Town Mountain played music in the background. Guests found themselves downing steamed oysters in one section of the center, while indulging on smoked pigs in another, with an abundance of cocktails made from the area's best mixologists also at their fingertips.

The final send off for the festival was the 10th annual Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival—a large-scale outdoor tasting where families and friends strolled throughout the Shelter Cove Community Park, sampling and sipping on a variety of seafood dishes, sweet treats and cocktails while relishing a beautiful day outdoors.

Participating restaurants included the Black Marlin, The Crazy Crab, The Old Oyster Factory, Poseidon Coastal Cuisine & Rooftop Bar, Red Fish, Skull Creek Boathouse and American Culinary Federation, among many others.

Even though the event just wrapped, Carmines is already planning for 2018 in an effort to continually improve the program. "We're adding a sporting day tournament next year, obviously with great food to match," he noted.