Is Boom Town Bluffton still a 'state of mind'?


Before there was Bluffton, there was Bluffton.

And that’s going to help if we ever recover from the Bluffton explosion.

Bluffton thankfully has an old soul. It’s older than any of us, unless you are as old as the May River.

The river is Bluffton’s soul.

“She is part of our subconscious,” said Emmett McCracken.

He wrote that in a new coffee-table book from Bluffton photographer Marge Agin, called “Bluffton State of Mind.”

I can “heah” the words drifting from Emmett’s little smirk like a reed in the “rivah” on flood tide.

He tells in this book about his grandfather who filled a Mason jar with May River water whenever he left town and would sponge it on his eyes at the dawn of each day away. “Medical science remains silent on this specific treatment but it seems pretty sound to a Blufftonian,” he writes.

Emmett tells how there are some 20,000 Blufftonians now, while it was 600 in his youth. And with a median age of 33, there’s something frisky about this new Bluffton explosion from one square mile to 54.

Bluffton bumper stickers of old proudly stated: “Bluffton is a State of Mind.” I’ve joked that Bluffton has since swerved into a “state of confusion.” It’s the kind of thing I mutter in the blazing asphalt parking lot of Bluffton’s new Sam’s Club, which itself is larger than one square mile.

But then I can walk into Scott’s Market, also pictured in the book, where I used to get perfect breakfast sausage from the proprietor’s grandfather. And it’s like having the waters of the May River sponged over my eyes.

This weekend, Bluffton celebrates several milestones, like oyster reefs lining the pluff mud.

On Saturday, the Bluffton Village Festival, or MayFest, will fill Calhoun Street with booths and people, arts and crafts, food and music for the 40th time on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

People think its pie-eating contest helps give Bluffton that small-town feel.

But the Ugly Dog Contest is the true link to Bluffton’s soul.

All I can say is, long live the Ugly Dog Contest. Maybe that should be a bumper sticker.

Also, we’re marking the 30th anniversary of the Bluffton Rotary Club, which runs the festival. It may be better known for the annual oyster roast it throws at the May River Oyster Factory Park, on the banks of the May River. It usually falls in that two-week cold snap we call winter.

And it was 40 years ago that Babbie Guscio opened the creaky doors of The Store on Calhoun Street, filled with a menagerie of oddities. You can’t put a price tag on the quirk and quack this gave to a street that would become a tourist destination in a village that thumbed its nose at Hilton Head Island and welcomed eccentrics like schools of mullet.

The photo book, with illustrations by Doug Corkern, shows both Bluffton’s old soul and its new heart.

Is Bluffton still a “state of mind”?

It depends on where you look.

And whether your eyes have been sponged with the salty waters of the May River.

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Lowcountry Fine Art Photography book Bluffton State of Mind

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Welcome to Bluffton, Palmetto Bluff and the Lowcountry – concert row seating to the best show on earth!

Spartina grass, pluff mud, cast nets, no-see-ums, dolphin, shrimp, ’gators, and loggerheads. Sippin’ on the sand bar and evening marsh glow. A thousand different sunsets and a million more sunrises.

Here, water and sky meet to make a masterpiece.

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