Every February, Hilton Head Island takes the time to celebrate one of its most important cultural chapters with a month-long celebration in honor of the Gullah Culture and Heritage, and has been recognized as one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society. Throughout the month the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration honors Gullah culture from food, to dance, to art and much more.
The Gullah Geechee were once African people, brought to the Lowcountry in order to farm rice paddies and cotton fields during the slave trade. Because of the system of islands around the South Carolina and Georgia area, it was easy to isolate the Gullah Geechee culture. After the Civil War, isolation was much more of a choice and the Gullah Geechee thrived with small business, hunting and trading.
Started in 1996, the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration’s main goal was to help minority business owners in the area and to also help increase cultural tourism traffic in the month of February, since during the off season traffic and revenue to the island does slow.
While the celebration lasts all month there is a festival and a food festival that the Gullah Celebration focuses on. Each year the festival week and vendors change, but the history and culture remain the same.