Thousands packed the Shelter Cove Community Park on Saturday afternoon to slurp down fresh half-shell oysters at the final day of this year's Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest.
The day of fresh food and live music capped off this year's festival that included events across the island each day over the past week.
Over the course of the day Saturday, organizers estimate 4,000 to 5,000 people came by to enjoy the crystal-clear, sunny afternoon that had many optimistic locals breaking out their shorts and sandals to enjoy the year's first festival warm enough for their summer garb.
Hosted by the David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation, the festival is the foundation's annual fundraiser. Proceeds from this year's events will benefit the Island Recreation Scholarship Fund, the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center and the American Cancer Society.
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Last year the festival raised between $40,000 and $50,000, and this year's festival seems on track to raise even more, according to Andrew Carmines, who helped organize the event and is the general manager at Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks.
This year was only the second in which the foundation has hosted a week's worth of events for the festival, and attendance was way up, Carmines said.
More than 250 people braved a chilly afternoon at Hudson's for the festival's oyster roast kick-off and a Cranford Hollow concert, he said. The foundation also sold out for two special wine and dinner events at Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar and Michael Anthony's Cucina Italiana during the week, he added.
"We're trying to make it a destination week where people come into town for a few days to celebrate local seafood," Carmines said. "And a lot of people don't realize the proceeds go to charity."
"Like, I'm drinking a beer right now, and it's a donation to cancer research," he laughed, sipping on a locally brewed Wooden Skiff beer. "How awesome is that?"
Around Carmines, dozens bobbed and weaved past long lines for shrimp and oysters from popular local outfits like Hudson's, Lucky Rooster, Old Oyster Factory, Bluffton Oyster Company and The Crazy Crab.
In the middle of the afternoon, area soul band Deas-Guyz had hundreds dancing at a time, criss-crossing three or four generations -- with toddlers showing off moves for their mothers and some grandfathers feeling especially bold after a few trips to the Wooden Skiff booth.
So many dancers got roped into the Cupid Shuffle that even the Chefs of the Lowcountry abandoned their posts cooking up crabcake and catfish sliders to join the crowd.
With the turnout the festival had all week this year, Carmines said he hopes to expand the festivities again next year to include more weekday events and raise more donations.
"We think we've found this format that works, and next year we're going to push it even more," he said.