By Hilary Brady

Love pets? How about saying “ya’ll” and sipping sweet tea? Do oysters, funnel cakes and bacon cheese fries make you go Yum!? Do children make you smile so big it makes your cheeks hurt?

If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then grab your calendars and get ready. Listed below is just a sampling of the many exciting events happening in southern Brunswick County this fall.

Paula Deen VIP Luncheon at BCC
Saturday, October 15
Do you want butter with that? World-famous Food Network star Paula Deen is baking up something sweet for the residents of Brunswick County. The popular Southern chef will attend an intimate VIP luncheon on the campus of Brunswick Community College (BCC), slinging lots of “hey y’alls” and sharing sugary secrets with her guests.

The event, with ticket costs beginning at $100, will offer a unique way to fund student scholarships at BCC.

“We constantly strive to provide as many scholarships for our students as possible,” says Susan Lawing from BCC’s Office of Development. “The need is greater than ever and we wish we could give every student the financial assistance they need, but unfortunately this is not the case. We are grateful to our community for the continued support.”

At noon on October 15, Paula will attend the VIP light luncheon. Afterwards, from 1 to 2 pm, the celebrated Southern chef will join with other local chefs to meet her fans at the Odell Williamson Auditorium (OWA) on the BCC campus.

“The 1 pm event on stage with Paula and the three area chefs will be fun and exciting,” says Lawing. “There will also be a few surprises in store for our audience. As we all know, there is never a dull moment with Paula Deen.”

An event ticket costs $100 and includes general assigned seating and an autographed copy of Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking BIBLE. For $150, a Premier ticket includes premium seating (limited to 120 guests) and an autographed copy of Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking BIBLE. The Meet, Greet and Eat ticket, for $500, includes the VIP luncheon, VIP seating for the event (limited to 60 guests) and two autographed copies of Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking BIBLE. Individual single tickets with no book are available for $65; groups may purchase a block of 10 or more tickets for $50 each.

More information:
OWA box office: (910) 755-7416

North Carolina Oyster Festival
Saturday, October 15 – Sunday, October 16
From camel rides to cook-offs, shucking contests to seafood chowder, the North Carolina Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach offers all forms of fun and food for all ages. Now in its 31st year, the annual festival hosted by the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce expects to satisfy the stomachs of more than 50,000 guests once again this year.

If you aren’t one to ooh and aah over an oyster, don’t be discouraged. The festival offers much more than just mollusks. Set your sights on traditional dishes including every form of chicken that you can imagine; classics like bacon cheese fries and baked beans; seafood and low-country dishes from shrimp burgers to sausage gumbo; and fun foods like kettle corn and blooming onions. Please don’t forget the homemade ice cream, hot apple dumplings and Key lime pie.

When your belly is brimming with goodies, peruse the many arts and crafts vendors and check out the kids’ area with everything from camel and pony rides to a fishing pond and Eurobungy trampoline.

“For the first time ever the kids’ area will be free!” says Kelly Mathews, programs and events director for the Chamber. “Thanks to our sponsors Bellamy Law Firm and Planet Fun, kids will be able to play in the bouncy house, ride a camel, ride a pony, climb the rock wall and play without having to pay for each individual item.”

And what would a Carolina oyster festival be without the sounds of country music playing in the background? Celebrated country artist Josh Kelly will headline the festival with a performance on Saturday at 4 pm. Other musical guests will include Sea Cruz, Coastline Band, Sawgrass, Faith Journeys Band, Craig Woolard Band and The Imitations.

The festival not only features fabulous food and excellent entertainment, it also includes several side events. An Oyster Festival surf contest was held on September 10, a tennis tournament on September 16 to 18 and a pageant on October 1, but all other events will be held during the festival weekend.

Oyster Shucking Championship: Saturday, October 15, 4 to 6 pm. Professional shuckers fight for the title of North Carolina Shucking Champion and the chance to compete at the National Oyster Shucking Championship in Maryland.

Oyster Festival 5K, 10K and 1 Mile Fun Run: Sunday, October 16 at Ocean Isle Beach Community Center. Fun Run begins at 8 am, 5K and 10K at 8:30 am. Participants compete for cash prizes and receive a T-shirt, race medal and free admission to the Oyster Festival.

Oyster Stew Cook-off: Sunday, October 16, sampling begins at noon, winner announced at 3:30 pm. Contestants will vie for the title of Best Oyster Stew, preparing and presenting their best recipe of any stew made with oysters as the only seafood.

Admission to the festival is $5 and free for children younger than 8. The festival, which will be located in Ocean Isle Beach on 2nd Street (beside the Museum of Coastal Carolina), will be open on Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.

“We’d like to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Back to Normal Restoration, for coming on board with us this year,” says Mathews. “We have more than 30 sponsors this year. Without them we would not be able to have such a great event.”

More information:
Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, (910) 754-6644

Communities In Schools Benefit Gala for Children
Thursday, October 27
Every year, Communities In Schools of Brunswick County, Inc. (CIS) hosts a gala to benefit local children who have trouble in school. The gala promises to impress once again this year; guests will fill their bellies with the best of Brunswick foods and their hearts with the understanding that they are making a difference in the life of a child.

“We want the community to understand the impact the funds raised on this evening have on the school children we serve; those most in need of support,” says Kimberly Bandera, marketing and events director for CIS. “As an example, our Dropout Prevention program provides one-on-one tutoring, counseling and case management services to middle school children at risk of dropping out.… We cannot allow these children to fall by the side because we lack the funds necessary to provide the support they need for a successful future.”

The 10th annual Benefit Gala for Children will be held on October 27 from 6 to 10 pm under the Palm Court Tent at Sea Trail Golf Resort and Convention Center in Sunset Beach. The black-tie optional event will present “A Taste of Brunswick County,” featuring foods from 14 of the finest restaurants from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach. A notable gourmet deli and a well-known seafood restaurant, Italian restaurants and pizzerias, several catering companies and bakeries will be onsite for a fabulous feast, with a locally famous coffee shop and Italian ice spot available to top off the evening’s meal.

The gala’s food isn’t the only attraction; the event will also include live and silent auctions, a 50/50 raffle and live music by Shoreline. Most guests, however, aren’t attending for the fine food or the fabulous entertainment; instead, they find fulfillment in supporting an organization that has helped more than 2,900 children and parents by investing more than 40,000 volunteer hours into Brunswick County’s youth. The gala simply provides a fabulous way for individuals and businesses to give back to an organization that has already given so much of itself to the community.

More information:
Communities In Schools of Brunswick County, Inc.,
(910) 457-3494

N.C. Festival by the Sea
Saturday, October 29 – Sunday, October 30
The North Carolina Festival by the Sea is an annual event hosted by the Holden Beach Merchants Association. The free festival has entertained thousands of locals and tourists since 1979, with last year’s event attracting a record 30,000 people.

Kicking off the 2011 festival is a parade that follows a unique course down the Holden Beach causeway. The only time of the year that the bridge is closed (aside from hurricanes), the parade allows spectators the rare experience of a high altitude walk across the bride.

“Thousands of people walk over and back,” says Merchants Association President Ron Champion. “It’s pretty neat.”

The parade experience begins on the mainland side of the bridge near Food Lion at 9:45 am on Saturday, with dozens of additional activities following. More than 150 arts and crafts vendors featuring locally made jewelry, artwork, furniture and more will be on hand on Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm. Authors of local books will be available for signing, and several activities will be on site for active youth. Kids can choose from rides, inflatables and even a mechanical bull.

A festival is not a festival without the good ‘ol greasy food, right? Besides, what settles mechanical bull nausea better than a funnel cake? Enjoy the full gamut of fair food including Greek and Thai specialties, local seafood, ice cream and countless other sweet and savory treats.

For those craving the sights of the sea, a sandcastle-building contest will be held on Saturday, exact time TBD, as the exact contest schedule will depend on the tide. A king mackerel fishing tournament will also be held on Saturday (rain date of Sunday). Boats 23-foot and smaller can compete, with those that don’t have access to a boat competing in a separate kid-friendly surf and pier fishing tournament.

“The festival was started to put Holden Beach on the map,” says Champion. “We are an all-volunteer group dedicated to letting people know about our area. All proceeds for the event will also help us continue our support of local charities and town beautification projects.”

More information:
Holden Beach Merchant’s Association, (910) 842-3828