The latest addition to the area’s festival scene focuses on plenty of music and Gullah Geechee food traditions – this time, the Southern flavors of fish and grits.
Though it will be held on Hilton Head Island – Oct. 1 at Lowcountry Celebration Park – the new event has Bluffton origins.
Bluffton native and performing artist Latrese Bush is the organizer. The daughter of the late Leon Bush, Sr. and Laura Bush, a retired 26-year veteran of the Beaufort Country School Board, Bush now lives in Atlanta where she runs BurnBush Entertainment, Inc.
“I have always wanted to bring awareness to my great culture. I have also been blessed to travel the world as a professional singer,” said Bush. “Through my travels, I have been able to see the influences of my African ancestry all over the world, and I wanted to share that connection as well.”
The entertainment lineup is loaded with well-known musicians and storytellers, with something for everyone. The festival will feature numerous performing artists well known both locally and nationally, artisans with unique crafts, and Lowcountry cuisine.
Bush’s singing spans R&B, soul, jazz and inspirational, and she has performed with Jennifer Holliday, Gloria Gaynor, Phil Perry, Bobby V and Justin Bieber.
Louise Cohen is a Hilton Head native. She is an award-winning and renowned Gullah storyteller, historian, teacher and preservationist, and is affiliated with the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.
Vascola Stoney, a Bluffton native (and Bush’s cousin) now based in Houston, makes frequent return trips home. A dynamic and inspirational spoken word artist, Stoney was featured at the Bluffton MLK Observance Committee’s 4th Annual Black Excellence Ball in January.
Indie Soul Artist Gwen Yvette has her roots on St. Helena Island. An entertainer and songwriter, she has opened for The Mighty O’Jays, and Frankie Beverly, and was a featured singer along with Bush and others in the March show “Queen: A Tribute to Greatness,” saluting Aretha Franklin.
Recording artists Angela Bonaparte and Company are a well-known gospel group out of Levy. They perform at various community functions, and their music can be found online.
Charleston-born R&B singer Votte Hall is an Atlanta-based recording artist who began his musical career behind the scenes in music studios before he began recording.
Percussionist Frankie Quinones is an independent Atlanta-based Latin and World Percussionist with a passion for playing all styles of music.
Bush anticipates the event becoming an annual festival.
“I want to bring awareness to my rich Gullah Geechee culture and give my community another opportunity to gather for great food, great music, and great times,” she said.
Vendors will include authors, artists and vendors selling culturally relevant handmade crafts, specialty items such as jarred preserves, and merchandise that can be worn or hung.
Food trucks bringing tasty treats will include Melly Mel’s, Chef B’s Eatz, Taco Brown, Mama Joy’s Kitchen and more.
Watterson Brands, which owns Burnt Church Distillery, is presenting the Lowcountry Fish and Grits Music Festival in association with BurnBush Entertainment, Hilton Head MLK Committee for Justice and the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor.
This is a kid-friendly event with access from the festival to the adjacent Adventure Playground and to The Sandbox Children’s Museum.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Hilton Head MLK Committee for Justice. The festival also sponsored by Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association.
Lowcountry Celebration Park is at 94 Pope Avenue, Hilton Head. The gates will open at noon and the show runs from 1 to 6 p.m. General admission tickets are available online and are $10 ($1.99 fee) for 13 and older, and $5 for ages 6-12 ($1.74 fee).
For more information, visit fishandgritsmusicfest.com.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.