HarbourFest: It’s a Family Affair
Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Photography by Anne
On a steamy Tuesday night in June, a palpable energy settles over Shelter Cove Harbour as several thousand people gather for an evening experience like none other. Once again the annual HarbourFest celebration is underway, to culminate with a spectacular fireworks display at dusk. This unique waterfront festival will be enjoyed every Tuesday night from 6-9:30 p.m., now through August 11.
For Hilton Head Islanders, the event is an opportunity to entertain friends and family and to take a mini-vacation from our everyday routines; for many of our visitors, HarbourFest is a vacation highlight and annual tradition.
Originally from Chicago, now visiting from Charlotte, North Carolina, Rhonda and David Dorn, are here tonight with their daughters Maddie and McKenna, ages 5 and 10. The family has been attending for the past five summers. “Every time we come here, we come to Shelter Cove. I wish we had known about it sooner,” Rhonda said.
The girls’ favorite part of HarbourFest is the Shannon Tanner show, David said. “He’s such a genuine performer and genuine person. We follow him on Facebook, and he always answers.”
Back for his twenty-seventh season, Tanner takes the stage in his famous propeller-topped beanie hat, delighting both children and adults with his high-energy performance of pop standards, sing-alongs, original ballads and children’s favorites. The summer show is distinctly family-oriented, with plenty of opportunities for audience participation. Youngsters are invited up to dance and sing while volunteers are selected to share the stage and perform solo. One of tonight’s future stars sang the classic, “This Little Light of Mine”; another performed “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen, each to thunderous applause and accolades from Tanner.
During the break between the 6:30 and 8 p.m. sets, waiting in line to get her beanie hat signed (a legendary Shannon Tanner ritual), 24-year old Chelsea Nowak flashes a grown-up smile that reflects the joy of her inner child. Nowak says her family has been attending HarbourFest for over 20 years, before she was old enough to remember. The gang’s all here, including her older brother Nick, mom, dad and 84-year-old grandmother, Cynthia Egide, who started this cherished family tradition.
Moving past the amphitheater where Tanner is performing, Cappy the Clown is on hand, spreading her special brand of cheer. With her Raggedy Ann hair, colorful attire and sunny disposition, she mesmerizes four-year-old Claire and her brother Luke from Cleveland, Ohio. Their mom, Kim Filiatraut said the family enjoyed dinner and fried ice cream earlier. “We’re having fun, and the kids just love it.” (Cappy is at Shelter Cove Harbour every Monday-Friday from 6-9 p.m.)
In addition to dancing and singing with Tanner and clowning around with Cappy, children are creating sand sculptures, playing carnival games, posing with “Gary the Gator,” riding the Kidz Play Train, and expending some extra energy in the bouncy houses.
Adults are taking in the gorgeous waterfront setting, awe-inspiring sunset and the opportunity to eat, drink and shop at their leisure. Dining options range from drinks and festival fare along the walkways (think craft beer, wine, iced coffees, smoothies, pretzels, sno cones, Italian ices, kettle corn and more) to the finest in gourmet dining and all points in between. With six full-service restaurants, including two seafood restaurants on either end of the marina and Italian, Mexican, French and Mediterranean in between—all with waterfront views—whatever you’re craving is on the menu at Shelter Cove Harbour. Additional live entertainment is offered at many of the restaurants, with both indoor and outdoor seating—perfect for chilling with an icy cocktail or relaxing with a glass of wine to cap off a day at the beach. (Reservations are suggested for dinner. For restaurant listings and contact information, visit palmettodunes.com/shelter-cove/dining-hilton-head.)
Mom, Nick, Dad, Cynthia and Chelsea have made HarbourFest a tradition for over 20 years.
Meanwhile, shoppers duck in and out of the eclectic array of stores lining the harbor or peek in the windows for a preview. Retail establishments offer goods ranging from resort wear, souvenirs and gifts to designer clothing and fine art. During HarbourFest and other nightly events, sidewalk vendors add an assortment of handmade crafts, jewelry, handbags, T-shirts and toys to the mix.
We caught up with Gretchen Adkins where Melvin Dean of “Steel the Show” was entertaining on the steel pan amidst a flurry of activity around the King Neptune statue. Popular activities include the Wild West Shootout, where everybody’s a winner, the Batter’s Box, where the fastest pitch wins, a hair wrap station and putting green.
“I’ve been coming here since I was two,” said Adkins, who is visiting from West Virginia with Chris Fowler and their two daughters, Audrey, age 17 months and Ellen age four. Adkins’ parents are also along for the multi-generational experience. “It’s a family fun thing. It’s good for everybody,” Adkins said.
Take it from the locals
While HarbourFest started out as a means of promoting Shelter Cove, Palmetto Dunes and the surrounding businesses, over the years, the event has grown into an island-wide attraction that is nothing short of a phenomenon. All four major resort hotels as well as the rental management companies now recognize HarbourFest as a premier happening, encouraging their guests to attend.
“It’s something different to do on the island,” said Kelli Lively, front desk supervisor at the Sonesta Resort. Lively, who was born and raised on the island, says she still enjoys attending HarbourFest and recommends it to all guests. “Everyone seems to love it,” she said. “There are plenty of activities for children, but with all the restaurants and bands, it’s also a great atmosphere for couples.”
“I send every guest to Shelter Cove Harbour. It’s one of my favorite areas of the island,” said Martha Smith, hotel concierge at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa. “The shops and restaurants do such an amazing job. I promote it always.”
Local boat owners often choose to avoid the Tuesday night crowd and view the fireworks show from the water. Visitors can share that experience on The Holiday, an 80-foot double deck cruise ship, departing Shelter Cove Marina at 7 p.m. for a two-hour tour, returning in time to view the fireworks show from the boat. For a different perspective, visitors can take a guided kayak tour with Outside Hilton Head and enjoy an up-close view of the fireworks display along with a nature excursion.
It is estimated that HarbourFest attracts over 60,000 visitors each summer season, with an average attendance of 2,500-5,000 per evening, swelling to 15,000 on the Fourth of July.
If you are a first-time visitor to Hilton Head Island, HarbourFest is a must on your things-to-do list. If you’re a local resident, celebrate your good fortune by bringing your summer guests or simply come mingle with the vacationers and remember the fun of being a tourist.
Whether you’re looking for an extra pop of energy or a place to unwind, head over to Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina for a summer adventure that is sure to beckon you back.
Shelter Cove Harbour is located mid-island at 1 Harbourside Lane, across from Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. There is no charge for parking or entrance to the festival. For more information or to see a video preview of the HarbourFest activities, visit palmettodunes.com/shelter-cove/hilton-head-harbourfest.
MORE SHANNON TANNER, PLEASE
Can’t get enough of Shannon Tanner? Fans are invited to return to Shelter Cove Harbour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for additional interactive family shows at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. Come back on Thursday nights, when Tanner and The Oyster Reefers, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, perform a special concert featuring all your favorite island tunes (6:30-9:00PM.) as part of Parrot Palooza. Enjoy this show through August 13 and reset your internal clock to “island time.”
Tanner also offers other activities associated with HarbourFest that give families a more personal experience with the beloved entertainer, including the Most Excellent Pirate Expedition. For more information or reservations, call (843) 422-0757 or visit piratekidzofhiltonhead.com.
FIREWORKS RETURN WITH A BANG!
Tuesday night fireworks will light up the sky at dusk during HarbourFest. See schedule below:
Saturday, July 4 (expanded show!)
Tuesdays, July 7, 14, 21 & 28
Tuesdays, August 4 & 11
Don’t miss the special Saturday evening Fourth of July fireworks show, an expanded version of the Tuesday night celebration.
(All shows are weather permitting.)
Shelter Cove Harbour
July 4th Event Parking Information
Shelter Cove Harbour July 4 event and fireworks, the largest display on the island, will again offer two parking lots available for attendees, who will then be shuttled to the event.
Secure auxiliary parking will be available at Chaplin Park off of Singleton Beach Road and at the Hargray parking lot along Highway 278. Traffic will be directed from 278 to the designated parking areas, and each lot will have onsite security officers.
Attendees to the event can park for free at these lots, board one of several shuttles that will run continuously from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. and be dropped off at Shelter Cove Harbour for the fireworks and other entertainment. They can then catch the shuttle upon the conclusion of the event to be taken back to the parking lots. Attendees are encouraged to use these parking areas to ensure safe and smooth entry and exit from the event.
Walking or riding bikes is another alternative to avoid parking and traffic problems. Those walking or biking from Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort must use the pedestrian bridge that passes underneath Hwy 278 to bypass highway traffic.
Shelter Cove Harbour fireworks over Broad Creek will take place at dusk on July 4 weather permitting for the set up and launch.
For more information, contact: Lyn Mettler, 404-713-1110, or email firstname.lastname@example.org