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Many beckoned by food, spirit festival benefit
Brunswick resident Lance Sabbe held a plate in one hand and his wine glass in the other Saturday as he chatted with friends at the St. Simons Island Food and Spirits Festival held at Gascoigne Bluff on St. Simons Island.

Sabbe ventured over to the island to get a taste of the inaugural event. And he wasn't disappointed.

"It's a wonderful event. It's very well organized," he said. "It's a gourmet event but also has that festival feel to it."

Sabbe's was a popular opinion Saturday. Many patrons voiced approval of the event, a fundraiser for Hospice of the Golden Isles in Brunswick.

Many events were held throughout the weekend -- including a preview party at Halyard's restaurant Friday and a cooking class with Southern kitchen divas Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubert at Coastal Kitchen Saturday morning. But the largest event was the food and spirits tasting along with live music on a stage Saturday afternoon. Cooking expos with Dupree, Graubert and other chefs including Libbie Summers and Chef Ford Fry were also held on site.

Passing through a group of craft and food vendors, patrons walked a Live Oak shaded pathway to the large Local Flavors food tent. There, more than 25 local restaurants and catering companies offered samples of their most delectable dishes. Patrons also tried more than 40 craft beers and wines.

Milling between the restaurants' tables, Debbie and Con Holland were impressed.

"I volunteered," Debbie Holland said. "It was so well organized."

"The food and atmosphere are really fantastic too," Con Holland added.

The festival concluded with a Sunday brunch at Halyard's restaurant on St. Simons Island.

And, while hard numbers for the event were unavailable, it was easy to gauge the event's success by attendance alone. Every event sold out, including the Saturday tasting which boasted 500 slots.

For the event organizers and vendors, the event meant months of hard work coming to life.

Jeff Montaigne, owner of Coastal Kitchen at the marina on St. Simons Island, was thrilled to see the festival fundraiser come together.

"It's great to see this kind of turnout, both locals and people from out of town," he said.

Montaigne even was a little star-struck by meeting and conversing with some of the famous chefs on hand.

"To stand beside some of my idols and have them see me as a contemporary, that's a great honor," he said.

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