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Dove Street Festival of Lights: 20 Years of Hilton Head Island Holiday Tradition

Vacation destinations in America are numerous and can be hard to choose from when planning your next big getaway. Hilton Head Island off the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina is a resort town that is the ideal vacation location for you and your family. The island covers around 60 square miles and is packed full of activities and events that are great for all backgrounds and ages. Golfers will be in paradise because there are 24 different world class golf courses within close reach. Tennis is also another major activity in this region with over 250 courts. In fact, eight of the Top 100 tennis resorts on the planet are on Hilton Head Island. If those don't interest you, then hit over 12 miles of pristine beaches great for sunbathing, beach games and observing the unique wilderness that the island features. Stunning vistas and outdoor activities are not the only things you’ll find here. The island it a food lover's dream, featuring over 250 restaurants, serving just about any type of food you can imagine. Shopping is also another main draw with 30 separate outdoor shopping centres and villages. If you're feeling worn out or sore after a fun filled day, make use of one of the multiple spas and wellness centers that call Hilton Head Island home. One of the best times to visit the island is during one of its festivals or events. Each holiday season, Hilton Head Island showcases it holiday spirit and endless attractions, with the Dove Street Festival of Lights at the Shelter Cove Towne Centre.


With humble beginnings as a family's way to celebrate the birth of their child, the Dove Street Festival of Lights has grown into one of the premier holiday celebrations in the region. Recognized by USA Today for being a top festival, you’ll find all the holiday cheer, festivities, and decor you can imagine. With bubbles simulating snow and over 75,000 lights, you’ll think you’ve discovered a winter wonderland that feels more reminiscent of the North Pole than an island. New to the festival is the scenic and lush Shelter Cove Community Park, which features a 30-foot brightly lit Christmas tree and plenty of opportunity to soak in the festivities. Aside from the decor this is a festival filled with fun activities for all ages. All will enjoy live music and performances, delicious holiday treats, face painting, visits from Santa and much more. Don't forget to take in all the shops and restaurants in Shelter Cove Towne Center that are celebrating the holidays right along with the festival. Unforgettable holiday memories for your entire family are only a trip to Hilton Head Island away. We interviewed Roni Allbritton, The General Manager of Shelter Cove Towne Center, to talk about the festival.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the festival.

RA: The Dove Street Festival of Lights began in 1990 on Dove Street in the North Forest Beach area of Hilton Head Island. Paul and Kristy Beckler and Rob Lolick were hanging lights in celebration of the birth of a new baby. The display grew throughout the years with the lights cascading over the street. Fifty homes were decorated, donations were being collected, and nightly entertainment was scheduled. In 2010, the small dirt road was seeing 1,000 cars per night driving through the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the Dove Street Festival of Lights outgrew the location and after a 20-year run decided to turn the lights out. In 2014, the brand new Shelter Cove Towne Centre was looking for a holiday draw and a way to give back to the community that had embraced it. The two groups got together and formed the Dove Street Festival of Lights at Shelter Cove Towne Centre - the most “tastefully tacky” holiday display in the southeast!  


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

RA: Thousands of locals, visitors, families, couples, and children tour through the lights each holiday season. Donations are collected for The Deep Well Project, Programs for Exceptional People (PEP), and Island Recreation Association. New for the 2015 season is a fund established through Community Foundation of the Lowcountry accepting online donations. To date, the Dove Street Festival of Lights has raised over $110,000, collected over 40,000 cans of food and given out over 20,000 presents to kids. The Festival has even been recognized by USA Today!


RAL: Take me through a day at the festival.

RA: The festival includes over 75,000 lights, holiday decorations, falling “snow”, nightly entertainment, and a 30-foot tree! Park your car, stroll through the lights and falling snow (Bubbles!), all while enjoying nightly entertainment, shopping, dining and much more! Shelter Cove Towne Centre is home to many restaurants and shops.


Our wonderful entertainment manager, Julie Jilly (AKA Holly Jolly Julie Jilly!), puts together a wonder list of entertainment each year including church choirs, children’s groups, magicians, Cappy the Clown, face painting, Santa Claus and much more. There is some sort of entertainment going on each night of the event.


RAL: What can visitors expect to find for local lodging?

RA: Lodging specials are something that we will be looking into for the years to come. This event has moved from a local community gem to a destination event, and we will be planning accordingly. Outside of the festival are many lodging options that can all be found on the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Visitor Bureau website.


RAL: What does the festival meal to the community?

RA: To date, the Dove Street Festival of Lights has raised over $110,000 for local non-profits, collected over 40,000 cans of food and given out over 20,000 presents to kids. The Festival has even been recognized by USA Today! Hilton Head Island is host to many wonderful events that attract over 2.6 million annually visitors from all over the world. The Dove Street Festival of Lights is something that can be enjoyed during the holiday season at no charge.


RAL: Why should people come?

RA: What started as a family tradition has organically taken root as a Hilton Head Island holiday tradition. The Dove Street Festival of Lights is not about lights, but about the spirit of community and generosity. Walking beneath the curtain of cascading lights with bubbles falling and holiday music playing on an Island overlooking the Broad Creek is an unforgettable experience.

For more information about the dove Street Festival of Lights and the Shelter Cove Towne Centre please visit their website.