By MARY STARR

Tastings and barbeque and brunches, oh my! Those are only a fraction of the choices attendees will have at the fourth annual Whiskey Wine & Wildlife – W3, on Jekyll Island.

The culinary event, where gourmands and nature intersect, takes place Feb. 7-10 at The Westin Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Beach Village. All sorts of whiskies, spirits, beers and wines, cuisine from some of the South’s best chefs and pitmasters and opportunities to get up close and personal with coastal wildlife will abound.

Everyone will receive a crystal souvenir glass to use at the multiple tastings. Wandering “Q-Alley” with its array of chefs and pitmasters, will be a significant part of Saturday afternoon’s activities, and classes and seminars on food and drink will be offered at various times throughout the weekend. There will also be a wine cruise, a Sunday brunch and a number of other activities throughout the four-day festival. Ticket information and a complete schedule is available at www.whiskeywineandwildlife.com.

Festival coordinator Jan Gourley said in addition to the activities people have come to expect, there are some new twists this year.

“We’ve created the Jacksonville Magazine Sparking & Bubbly Lounge, presented by Aperol Spritz and Dasani Sparkling,” she said. “It will be everything bubbly, along with a Champagne fountain and bubble machines.”

Perhaps the most original twist allows people to have a personal encounter with animals.

“We’ve also added a Creature Feature Café to the Jekyll Island Foundation Stage/Tent, presented by The Brunswick News on Saturday,” she said. “There will be several interactive sessions with animals, where guests can go grab a cup of coffee and get to sit and pet an animal — kind of like the cat cafés that are sweeping Japan.

And on Saturday morning, organizers have created “Uncaged at The Westin,” which will be a falconry demonstration, accompanied by Zac Brown’s Uncaged Wine tastings — yes, that Zac Brown, of Zac Brown Band fame.

Local restaurants/caterers participating throughout the weekend include Certified Burgers & Beverage, Southern Soul Barbeque, Sea Island Resort, Reid’s Apothecary, Thrive at Frederica, The Westin Jekyll Island, The Beach House Restaurant & Tap Room, The Farmer and The Larder and Little St. Simons Island.

Restaurants from outside the area will include One Hot Mama’s, The Lucky Rooster, Sea Pines Resort and Omni Hilton Head Resort, all of Hilton Head Island, S.C.; FARM Bluffton, from Bluffton, S.C.; Moxie and Town Hall, both of Jacksonville, Fla. and B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, One Flew South, Grand Champion BBQ, Georgia Grown and Skye Burger, all of Atlanta.

Gourley said she’s hopeful the event raises a minimum of $20,000, the proceeds of which benefit the Jekyll Island Foundation.

“The money donated to the Jekyll Island Foundation from the event is unrestricted funds, so primarily projects that come up that are not in the budget, or restricted accounts,” she explained. “It’s important for nonprofits to have those funds on hand for emergency situations and projects that are great opportunties, but were not included in the fiscal year budgeting process.”

Meanwhile, on Feb. 9, the Auxiliary of the Hospice of the Golden Isles will be holding its much-anticipated Wine Women & Shoes fundraiser at The Cloister, on Sea Island. Currently in its sixth year, the event features shoe, clothing and accessory vendors, a raffle, silent auction, luncheon and fashion shows, not to mention great fellowship.

Event chair Becky Derrick said the committee has changed some things this year, including inviting guests to attend dressed in a specific color.

“We are doing a white party, because this hasn’t been done yet here on a larger scale,” she said. “Of course, wearing white is not a requirement at all; we love all of our attendees no matter what they’re wearing, but many people are having fun with it, and looking for white, winter white, cream and light neutrals.”

Women are even emailing Derrick links to show her what they’re thinking of wearing.

“It’s caused a bit of a stir, and is really fun,” she laughed.

One new feature, thanks to Velvet Eyewear, is a sunglass raffle. The company donated 12 pairs, so some lucky person will end up with a year’s supply of sunglasses.

Nine vendors will participate in this year’s marketplace, including favorites like Alma Handbags and Copper Penny, but new vendors, including Kane Atlanta and Chloe Kristyn will be there this year.

“Crash Jewelry made a huge splash with our audience last year, and they’re returning for the 2019 event,” Derrick said. “Pampered Foot has convinced designers and fashion houses to early-ship spring styles for our event, so we’ll have the latest styles before they are even released in other places.”

Valet parking attendants will be at the entrance to the ballroom foyer, at the back of the hotel. Patrons and VIPs will enter at 1 p.m., and general admission entry will begin at 1:30 p.m.

“We’ve added more registration help, so that we can get people sipping and shopping even more quickly,” she said. “This year, guests will sip their event-day beverages out of a fabulous stainless-steel insulated tumbler sponsored by Merrill Lynch – Amman, Bennett, Rice Wealth Management.”

Guests will enter the venue, get their first sip, then stop at the selfie station to have their picture taken with friends. Then they can view the Key to the Cellar wine giveaway, and purchase tickets for that. The junior ballroom will be open for the marketplace, silent auction and Key to the Cellar, and guests will be able to sip and browse while shopping for shoes.

Lunch will be served in the main ballroom, with the fashion show, the crowning of the King and Prince of Sole and the live auction, emceed by Mason Waters, finishing the event.

Models at press time included Michelle Allen, Brandi Byrd, Jenny Sharpe, Kane Frazier, Taylor Stephenson, Whitney Johnson, Terrica Skaggs, Colleen Martin, Hannah Melton, Becca Strother, Susan Imhoff, Becca Randall, Carol Slade, Shari Burns, Nancy Botsford, Darcelle Burandt, McKenzie Boatright, Anna Kate Folsom, Jaicee Brewton, Hunter Leggett, Devin Drury, Shannon Silva, Martha Wilson, Livi Packard, Hannah Brownlee, Logan Drawdy, Julia Landon, Veronica Joseph, Kelli Collum, Whitney Bluestein, Amy McLain, Kylie Stephens, Jessica Moore, Robin Hunter, Connie Davis, Alise Hulsey, Haven Hopkins, Skye Cook, Macy Helms, Shelby Brazell, Tracy Bulostin, Carolyn Farras, Nancy Stephens, Dr. Jenni Bozcar and Cynthia Wagner.

Shoe guys, at press time included Andy Broderick, Anthony Martinez, Ashley Crosby, Beau Edenfield, Brad Chapman, Brandon Derrick, Brian Peebles, David Sharpe, Dobie Higgins, Don Maxey, Eric Friedrich, Frank Solana, Gabe Gabriel, Heath Slapikas, Jack McConnell, Jay Wiggins, Jeremy James, Joe Nash, John Eberly, Jonathan Havens, Josh Ferguson, Mark Popwell, Dr. Mike Cordle, Rich Nazzaro, Sam Tostensen, Tad Tostensen and Timothy Wilson.

Tickets begin at $100, and include unlimited wine refills, lunch and an official swag bag.

As far as a fundraising goal, Derrick said one is rarely pinpointed, because years and attendees vary.

“$50,000 would be a nice figure,” she said. “We are always just so astounded by, and grateful for, the giving nature of our sweet little community.”

The money from Wine, Women & Shoes, the largest fundraiser for the HGI Auxiliary, is a huge help to Hospice of the Golden Isles.

“(It’s) vitally important to helping us sustain our nonprofit mission of providing award-winning, trusted hospice care to all who need our services regardless, of ability to pay,” said Karen Brubaker Miller, president and CEO, Hospice of the Golden Isles.

Miller explained that each year, HGI incurs nearly $600,000 in costs for uncompensated patient care in its five-county service are, including hospice house. She explained that uncompensated care includes hospice services for those who don’t have any means to pay, those with limited resources and those whose insurance only covers part of the costs, including pediatric patients.

Hospice of the Golden Isles also provides, at no charge, bereavement support for 13 months to grieving family members who have lost a loved one, and 24 month for those who have lost a child under HGI care.

“Your participation in Wine, Women & Shoes helps ensure that all of our neighbors are able to have the same compassionate support they need, when it’s needed the most,” Miller said.

Tickets are selling briskly, but remain available by calling 638-1425, or visiting www.winewomenandshoes.com/event/goldenisles/.