Living near the ocean guarantees seafood as a large portion of our diet. Whether you prefer it blackened, Calabash style, or raw (if you can get away with it), the bounty of the sea is plentiful and fresh. This October 10th and 11th, you can celebrate your love for fresh sea fare with a musical twist at the 22nd Annual Pleasure Island Seafood Blues and Jazz Festival in Kure Beach. With fifteen different musical acts and a smorgasbord of everything from crab cakes to ribs, there will be a little something different for everybody.
The festival itself began in 1992, as a way to generate tourism for the island while providing the military members with entertainment. After its debut, the festival took a break for a few years because of funding problems but returned in 1995 when the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce was asked to take over its production. The initial festivals were only one day with a crowd of a couple hundred people; the music was provided by locals. “Three years ago we almost doubled the size,” says Greg Reynolds, the Executive Director for the Chamber of Commerce. “An artist cancelled on us, so we upped our budget to get a recognizable name.” That recognizable name was The Wet Willie Band, now a part of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The move was a success, changing the festival into a two-day event with headliners playing each day.
The current incarnation of the festival still holds true to its roots. “It’s primarily a music festival with seafood involved,” says Greg, adding that they always want to highlight the good food. The food area is somewhat small, but local Michaels Seafood will be in attendance, along with some returning favorites from Brunswick county and Swansboro. “We’ll have Calabash style, crab cakes; a little bit of everything,” says Greg. A wine and arts garden will also be held inside the beach house with free wine tastings from fourteen different vendors.
The theme of the music changes a little every year, this year featuring blues and jazz. Saturday’s lineup has the most musicians, featuring Australian-born Kara Grainger, David Gerald, and 6-time Grammy winner Dr. John and the Nite Trippers on the blues stage. The jazz side will host the Will McBride Group, former Azalea Queen and Dawson’s Creek star Nina Repeta, and North Carolina natives Freeport Jazz from Winston Salem. Sunday’s blues stage will kick off with piano player Adrian Duke of Hillsborough, followed by Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King from Texas, and ending with “The Queen of Blues” Shemekia Copeland. Sunday’s jazz stage will kick off with Wilmington locals the Benny Hill Trio, followed by the FROG Project, ending with El Jaye Johnson and the Port City All-Stars. If you can’t choose between blues and jazz, don’t worry, says Greg. “We try to stagger it so everyone can see a little bit of both.”
The intricacies of blues and jazz music might be lost on the younger members of your family, but they’ve planned ahead for that. The festival will feature laser tag, a large bouncy house, and complimentary magic shows for younger guests. Tickets run at $50 for both days, though it is $60 for Saturday alone and $25 for Sunday, so plan for the weekend. Parking is free and there will be golf carts available for handicapped guests. There will also be chair rentals, though it is advised you bring your own. Although coolers and alcohol are prohibited inside the event, tailgating is popular. Attendance is limited to 5,000 people so the show isn’t overcrowded, but as Greg said, “Don’t be in a big hurry; we’re pretty easy-going. Each year just keeps getting better and better.”