Dove Street Festival of Lights to return at Shelter Cove Towne Centre

By Rebecca Lurye

Four years after a Hilton Head Island Christmas tradition went dark, the spirit of the Dove Street Festival of Lights will return with a new home at the Shelter Cove Towne Centre.

Beginning Dec. 1, the row of shops and restaurants along Shelter Cove Lane will be illuminated by a canopy of 50,000 lights, recreating the feel of a community event that drew islanders to Dove Street for 20 years before the festival ended in 2010.

Organizers said the new event might not be a mirror image of the Dove Street festivities, but it will capture its spirit and continue its tradition of goodwill. Volunteers will staff the event each night to collect donations for two Hilton Head organizations, The Deep Well Project and Programs for Exceptional People, which promotes independence and education for special-needs adults.

Through the years, the event raised more than $100,000 in cash, 40,000 cans of food and 20,000 toys for needy families.

Paul Backler, co-founder of the Dove Street Festival of Lights, said Wednesday he was thrilled organizers Shelter Cove and Hilton Head's World Design Marketing decided earlier this year to resurrect the event and managed to do it so quickly.

The new event will avoid the strain residents felt as their festival outgrew Dove Street, including the costly electrical bills from lighting the street and the effort of managing heavy traffic.

This holiday season, the festival was simply looking for new home, and Shelter Cove was looking for a little heart, co-founder Kristi Beckler said.

"It's a perfect match."

Paul Beckler says he has missed the coffee-shop atmosphere Dove Street provided for one month every year. People would come for the friends and the "spontaneous episodes of enthusiasm," as much as for the decorations, he said.

Sometimes, onlookers broke out into song, and Beckler recalls one night when a college glee club from Ohio lined both sides of the street and bounced carols back and forth for more than an hour.

"All the windows on all the homes were shaking," he said.

The new festival will also feature entertainment in the plaza off Shelter Cover Lane. Some of that energy was already present Wednesday, when Shelter Cove and World Design Marketing announced the new event.

Six members of PEP's bell choir, The Peppers, donned Santa hats and silver vests to open a press conference with the sounds of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

On Thursday, work will begin to recreate the look of the Dove Street festival. Crews will string cables along the lane to support the canopy as business owners continue to plan decorations for their storefronts.

Doves fly over a wintery mannequin in an evergreen swing in the window of Copper Penny, a clothing store opening Thursday. Across the street, a snow machine and archway of packages will soon appear outside crafts and gifts shop ArtWare.

"We know how to do Christmas tacky up right," ArtWare owner Jennifer Megliore said, adding she was proud of Shelter Cove for embracing the event. "To have a little place for people to come enjoy the Christmas spirit, it's a gift to the community."

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