If annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival in Mt. Pleasant (set for Jan. 29) is a massive gathering with thousands of attendees and a sprawling maze of tables and cookers, then the annual Music and Oysters for Wildlife Benefit up the highway in Awendaw is a relatively casual, family-oriented hang under two big tents with plenty of elbow room. It was a laid-back gathering in a rustic, pine-filled setting.

On Saturday afternoon (Jan. 21), several hundred locals showed up to the field behind the Sewee Outpost (the site of Awendaw Green’s music festivals) for fresh clusters delivered from nearby Bull’s Bay, cold cups of beer, and an impressive roster of live bands handling a mix of blues, groove-rock, country, and folk. The Red Dog Ramblers — led by singer/guitarist Gaines Hill — jammed on a wild variety of old-school soul favorites, bluegrass, and alt-country. Local songwriters Danielle Howle, Doug Jones, Mark Bryan, and other featured acts hung out with friends and family side-stage across from a small bonfire. Packs of little kids romped and played on a pile of freshly un-bailed hay across the yard.

Several large single-basket oyster cookers were in full swing on the other side of the tent. As fast as they could, teams of two hauled hot, steamy bushels to tables where folks packed in with their knives in hand. The most enthusiastic oyster fans brought their favorite gloves, aprons, and bottles of hot sauce. Things got a little muddy and messy at the most crowded tables, but the overall scene was tidy, friendly, and fun.

Proceeds benefited the SEWEE Association, which hopes to raise money to support their environmental education programs.

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