Lowcountry’s People, Culture, Food Spotlighted on Today Show

Originally published by The Island Packet on May 20, 2022.

Hilton Head Island’s people, culture, natural resources and businesses were spotlighted in an hour-long national program filmed during a steamy day on the beach Friday at Sea Pines Resort. Here’s the top moments from NBC’s “Today” show coverage of the 3rd Hour from the beach, which came from a luxury home on Hilton Head at 9 a.m. Friday before a live audience.

At least 100 people were bused in by Trolley to the area. People could apply to be in the audience.

It was announced that it was host Craig Melvin’s birthday. Melvin, who is originally from Columbia, S.C., turned 43.

“This is extra special,” Melvin said of spending his b-day with his fellow hosts, whom he described as his favorite people, in one of his favorite places, Hilton Head, which he has been visiting for years. At the close of the show the audience and hosts sang “Happy Birthday” and gave Melvin a cake made by Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery & Cafe on Hilton Head.

Melvin quizzed his fellow hosts about their knowledge of his home state. Does South Carolina make more peaches than Georgia, the “Peach State?” Yes, said Melvin, as the hosts bit into South Carolina peaches. Was tennis great Stan Smith born on Hilton Head? Al Roker answered yes. False. Smith was born in Pasadena, California but he lives on Hilton Head today. Then a basket of classic Stan Smith white sneakers with green trim were distributed to the hosts.

Locally made products were in the spotlight, too. At one point, Roker held up a glass of Johnny Fever Whiskey made by Burnt Church Distillery of Bluffton. He did not drink it. After all, the show began at 9.

Roker, wearing pink pants and and a wide-brimmed hat, gave the weather forecast from the beach, then was joined by Melvin and co-hosts Sheinelle Jones and Dylan Dreyer, on bicycles. “Here we go,” Roker said, “race on the beach!”

The Atlantic Ocean could be seen in the background as the show’s anchors began the program seated in a set on a second-floor deck of the Vrbo beach house with six bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

The crew went on a fishing trip with Blue Fishing charter with Drew Davis as the captain. During the excursion, they saw dolphins dipping in and out of the water.

Lenard Larry McKelvey, known professionally as Charlamagne tha God, co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club, joined the hosts in desk chairs on the beach, a towel on his head to protect himself from the sun. “You are sweating like a rookie,” he told his old friend Melvin, who dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief. McKelvey, from Moncks Corner, S.C. , and Melvin once landed on a Top 10 list of South Carolina residents under 30. Melvin shared some inside stuff about his old pal, saying they once were in a Columbia club when Melvin started sniffing and asked, “Is that weed?” Then, McKelvey said, Melvin said that they needed to leave, like right now. Melvin, McKelvey noted, is not any different in real life than who he is on TV. “Craig is, McKelvey said, “who he is.”

McKelvey is involved with International African American Museum in Charleston. The city’s Gadsden’s Wharf, McKelvey noted, is where half of enslaved Africans came into the country. “For a lot of us, it’s where our existence began,” McKelvey said. The museum does not tell the story of enslaved Africans, McKelvey said. “I would call it a story of survival.”

Chef Orchid Paulmeier, owner of One Hot Mama’s American Grill in Hilton Head and Bluffton, Andrew Carmines of Hilton Head’s Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, and Charleston chef BJ Dennis gave the NBC crew a taste of Lowcountry cuisine. “Moment of truth,” Orchid said after telling Roker to have a taste of her hickory smoked pulled pork. “I’m a little nervous.”

No need to be. Roker loved it. Carmines presented deviled crab which he said represented the Lowcountry’s culinary roots. The dish, he noted, utilizes less sought-after claw meat, and there is no waste. And Dennis made a Geechee-style fried okra and shrimp and red rice, or tomato purloo. “You cannot come to the Lowcountry and not know about the Gullah-Geechee culture,” Dennis said. That culture, Dennis added, is what makes the landscape what it is.

From the set, Roker lifted up a proclamation from the Town of Hilton Head awarding the “3rd Hour” NBC crew a key to the town. Co-host Jones noted the friendliness of the people, describing the welcome they received, “Like a big warm hug.”

NBC tagged along on a sea turtle patrol looking for loggerhead nests. But it was a nest dug by a green turtle that captured the day. There have only been five green turtle nests on the beach in 30 years, said Amber Kuehn, director of Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head.

“To have you guys here, and to have that happen, is really special,” Kuehn said.


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