With its shiny new coat of paint, the Tybee Island Light Station is gussied up and ready to open its doors for the Tybee Wine Festival Grand Tasting.
The April 12 event is the pinnacle of a weeklong celebration of Tybee and everyone's drink. Throughout the week of April 9-13, various island locations will play host to themed dinners and events to benefit the Tybee Post Theater. From intimate, candle-lit wine dinners to sun-drenched afternoon parties, the wine festival offers a multitude of tastings for every schedule and budget.
Now in its sixth year, the Tybee Wine Festival began as the brainchild of Cindy Meyer, Tybee resident and Post Theater supporter. Following a visit to a similar festival in Seaside, Fla., Cindy brought the idea to the theater to raise funds for the efforts to restore the island's old theater building. A group of volunteers produced the first festival as a one-day event. Their efforts were met with tremendous success, and in the years since, the event grew exponentially.
By its third year, the event grew to a multi-day, island-wide event that incorporated several of the island's top restaurants. This year, the event spans five different island locations and includes many more island businesses and artists. The enthusiastic participation is largely in part to the island's support of the Tybee Post Theater. All proceeds go to the final phases of restoration and reopening of the theater.
According to Melissa Turner, the theater's new executive director, once opened, the theater will host performing arts, community theater, movies, musical performances, dance and educational programming for kids. The theater's board hopes to be fully programmed at least 200 nights a year.
"Tybee really needs something like this. There isn't a venue like this for entertainment purposes," Turner says. "It really will be a community asset. We're getting community input about what the community wants to see in the theater. We're taking it back to its roots."
The Tybee Wine Festival is the Post Theater's largest annual fundraiser. To kick things off, Tybee Island Social Club hosts the wildly popular "Wining and Dining: The Art of Pairing" event at their beachy-hip Butler Avenue restaurant. The five-course sommelier dinner sold out so quickly that organizers added another dinner on April 10 to meet demands.
One exciting update to this year's schedule is the April 10 "Let's Do Lunch: The Art of Coastal Design and Cuisine" event at the Tybee Island Shrine Club. With its expansive wall of oceanside windows, the Shrine Club will be the afternoon home to some of Savannah's top chefs and designers as they teach participants how to host the perfect coastal lunch. The format is an update to the festival's popular Seafood School.
Holley Jaakola, author of "A Savannah Christmas," is set to demonstrate the makings of a festive table. The event then features four chefs, each demonstrating one course. This year's featured chefs include Roberto Leocci of Leocci's Trattoria, Amberley Stewart, culinary director of Virginia College, noted cookbook author Martha Nesbit and event organizer and cooking instructor Pat Hackney. The event is a little bit like Pinterest live. Each demonstration features full instruction and a set of recipes to take home.
For those wanting to skip the process and get straight to tasting, the Grand Tasting is the best bet. On April 12, the lush, oceanside grounds of the Tybee Light Station are transformed into a home for flowing wine, scrumptious food and live music. Event organizers encourage participants to pack up their beach chairs and picnic blankets and set up shop in front of the stage.
Turner describes the atmosphere as, "casual and laid-back." She welcomes people to visit the 75 different wines, presented by eight distributors, and the various restaurants represented at the event, then grab a spot on the grass in front of the band. The late afternoon hours provide ample time to mosey back and forth as many times as you wish.
The Tybee Wine Festival as a whole offers many opportunities to join the festivities. The festival is perfect for wine and food lovers, as well as those looking to support the arts in our community. In addition to events listed here, the festival also features "An Evening of Oysters and Wine" at the moonlit Marlin Monroe's Surfside Grill, and an incomparable Champagne Brunch under the oaks at The Crab Shack. Throughout the week, participants may look for live and silent auctions featuring Tybee artists and other goodies.
If you had to pinpoint what sets this wine festival apart from similar events, it would have to be the addition of Tybee's unique color and spirit. The island's relaxed attitude, coupled with a community coming together in their passion for the Tybee Post Theater, makes this event just a little bit more special than your average wine tasting.
The 2014 Tybee Wine Festival is April 9-13. For a complete schedule, details and regular updates, go to www.TybeeWineFestival.com.
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