Big Things are happening. After that seemingly short winter, the Banks are coming back to life. Ospreys are building their nests. Marsh bunnies are hopping, and robins are singing. Restaurants and attractions are opening. Shop owners are setting out new goods. Businesses are sprucing up. The event press releases are flying, clogging up my inbox, and I'm itching to pass the word.
The biggest of the big things going on this week is Outer Banks Taste of the Beach. Starting on Thursday and running through Sunday, TOB has 48 different events occurring a total of 96 times (because many events are scheduled for more than one day or time). That's over just four days! If you don't think that's awesome, I don't know what will impress you.
Twenty-nine different restaurants are hosting events, plus there's the Grand Tasting event on Sunday night, which features 24 restaurant exhibitors plus beer and wine vendors. Taste of the Beach organizers are expecting to sell 3,000 total tickets to all these events. Since most people attend more than one event, that's actually about 1,800 people involved.
These are people from all around, not just Outer Banks locals. People are coming in from dozens of states, specifically for this event.
"That's what's we intended all along," says Ben Sproul, president of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association. "To make Taste of the Beach so notable and so impressive that people are making their Outer Banks vacation plans in the off-season when we need it most."
This is the 10th year of Taste of the Beach, and the event has seen staggering growth over the past three years - 528% growth since 2008, to be exact. That's when Taste of the Beach went from a single evening tasting event to a four-day food and drink bonanza and hired a professional marketing firm to get the word out. Gross ticket sales were $19,000 in 2008, but in 2011, they were more than $100,000, says Audrey Webster, the marketing maven who gets the TOB word around. Organizers conservatively estimate that the events pump more than $275,000 into the Outer Banks economy, with food sales, accommodations and incidentals.
The event has gotten so noteworthy that Coastal Living magazine named it one of the Top 10 food fests in the nation. With publicity like that, events have been filling up early. Some events for this weekend are already full.
If you've been procrastinating on buying tickets, you can see the whole list of events here, or you can head to Outer Banks Brewing Station on Thursday night from 5 to 8 p.m. for the Taste of the Beach Kick Off. You'll be able to register for events on Thursday night, and there will be great food and drink, raffles, prizes and more.
Prepare to spend a little time looking over the list of events. Many of the most popular events are back, like the Duck Tapas Crawl and the Downtown Manteo Throwdown, plus there are some creative new events this year. Ceviche and tequila tasting at Bad Bean, anyone? How about a seven-course tapas dinner with beer pairings at Chilli Peppers? A shrimp feast at Basnight's? There are full-blown parties, bus tours, educational classes, tapas samplers, full-course dinners, pizza breakfasts, dessert tastings and so much more.
"For the restaurant community, they really feel like this is the kick off to the 2012 season," says Sproul. "It gives an extra bump of excitement."
Thursday night it's the Dare County Arts Council's and 99.1 The Sound's free Outer Banks Sounds event, a great way to catch some free local music. Musicians this month are Jones Potion, xbanders and Gary Radar. This one is at Kelly's. Across the street at Front Porch Café in Nags Head, the Arts Council hosts its Literary Open Mic Night on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m...
If you're doing it up with the chow and booze this weekend, you might want to try to burn some calories in the Kelly's Running of the Leprechauns 8K on Saturday morning. It's a fun 8K in Nags Head that goes through the woods and ends up with a party (more chow, more booze) at Kelly's...
Also on Saturday: The Music of Jacques Offenbach at Roanoke Island Festival Park, presented by UNC Opera at 2 and 7 p.m. in the Indoor Theatre; the First Flight Cruisers Car Show at First Flight High School; the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's fund-raiser Night at the Races at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk...
Kelly's St. Patrick's Day Parade is on Sunday starting at 1 p.m. It's on the Beach Road in Nags Head, from milepost 11.5 to 10.5. The weather report is for nice weather in the 60s. Somehow the wind always finds a way to blow from the north right about 1 p.m. on parade day, but maybe not this year. Get there early and claim your spot because this one draws quite the crowd. There are after-parties galore after the parade at the Nags Head restaurants: Tortuga's, Lucky 12, Mulligan's, Kelly's, etc...
There's lots of great live music this weekend too. Look here...
We want to hear from you. Are you going to any Taste of the Beach events? Are you in the parade? Do you have some other big event we need to know about? Tell us! Make a comment below, or post something on our Facebook page...
And be sure to enter our Weekly Giveaway on Facebook. This week we're giving away a $50 Gift Certificate to Ocean Boulevard Restaurant in Kitty Hawk...
This week you have a chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate to Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar in Kitty Hawk!
For more information about Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar, check out their website.
Last Week's Winner
Congratulations to Ali Gray!!!
You won two passes to the Outer Banks Wedding Show on March 24th at The Sanderling, plus cupcakes from Carolina Cupcakery!
For more information about The Sanderling Resort and Spa check out their website.
For more information about Carolina Cupcakery check out their website.