It is the Saturday of the 2016 Charleston Wine + Food festival. Heidi Dalton, an eager volunteer makes her way through Marion Square, clipboard in hand. She is a newcomer to both the Lowcountry and the Charleston Wine + Food team. She doesn’t know it yet, but the Culinary Village will soon be near and dear to her heart. The bustling crowds of visitors and locals make her wish that the festival was more than a seasonal Charleston celebration.
As a child, Heidi was inspired by the world of pastry making. She remembers baking with her grandmother and daydreaming about becoming a Pâtissière. Although her career took her in a different direction, she carried her love of pastries with her through every holiday party. Every Christmas, she gathers her children and family friends to spend a day baking in the warmth of the kitchen, sharing jokes, drinks and holiday cheer.
It is no surprise that Heidi carried her love of baking with her to Charleston, when in 2016 she found herself in a new city full of artisan bakeries to explore. Knowing that exploring a new city is always better with friends, she had a desire to make meaningful connections with people that shared her love of good food and good times, and that is when she found a home at Charleston Wine + Food. She lends a hand to the Wine + Food family in any capacity they need, dropping into the office weekly to prepare for the upcoming festivities. Although she volunteers for the nonprofit year-round, working in the festival’s Culinary Village is easily her favorite part of the volunteer experience. According to Heidi, the Village brings together the “most interesting, diverse cross-section of Charleston food, culture and people.”
Heidi is most excited by the rich traditions and different cultures the Charleston Wine + Food festival illuminates. She describes the festival as a chance for “the people in Charleston to roll out the red carpet for everyone to come experience the best of the city.” Heidi’s first year volunteering with the festival was fast-paced and exhilarating. In just a few short hours, she went from passing out wine glasses to working as a sous chef with Charleston culinary legend Frank Lee.
Heidi believes the “first festival was hands down the reason why [she] got so excited about Charleston Wine + Food.” The team’s “enthusiasm was invigorating.” Their drive to bring people together to celebrate Charleston’s rich culinary history inspired Heidi to dive into any and all volunteer opportunities.
As Heidi’s passion for Charleston Wine + Food festival grows, so does her love for the Holy City. She believes that the festival “showcases the city in a wonderful light.” Everywhere she goes she will compare it to Charleston and the colorful food and beverage community here. She has a love of food and people and loves that the festival attracts people from across the country with similar interests.
As Heidi reflects on her four years with Charleston Wine + Food, her joy is effervescent. After living in Charleston for nearly three years, Heidi’s social network has expanded tremendously. Her passion for Charleston Wine + Food inspires her to recruit friends and other community members to get involved. “Life doesn’t come easy,” she says, “you have to open the door and go after it.”