It is hard to remember how life “felt” a year ago, as we capped a year of planning and effort to execute the 15th annual Charleston Wine + Food festival. Little did any of us know that our early March events would, for many of us, be the last public outing for a year or more.
While the pandemic and its effects have had a sobering, and often chilling, impact on our world, there is no doubt it has been particularly challenging for the industries we intersect. Our hearts continue to go out to the hospitality and tourism business owners and their workers, to the numerous individuals who count on live events to make a living, and to the purveyors and others who have seen declining demand for their products in a world largely hunkered down at home.
Clearly, 2020 was difficult in ways none of us may have imagined. But it did present a number of gifts to our festival team that we were happy to receive, namely: time and perspective.
The decision to cancel a 2021 festival outright was difficult. But it was necessary as we sought to shore up our organizational resources, gain crucial perspective on navigating what the future holds and demonstrate respect for the very real constraints many of our colleagues and industry face.
That gift of time has also allowed us to consider what this festival is, and what it can be. Working with our board, staff, industry friends and others, we reflected in 2020 on ways to:
Strengthen and concretize our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This work is reflected in our policies pertaining to board and staff selection, as well as ways in which we will collaborate with individuals and organizations going forward.
We stepped back and asked: what would Charleston Wine + Food look like if we invented it today? That provided a new perspective on some of our processes and procedures, which we’ll imbue in our 2022 festival planning.
Absent the press of organizing a multi-day, 100+ event program, we had time to focus anew on our local relationships.
- We were thrilled to work with the City’s Restaurant Advisory Committee as we provided industry research on outdoor dining models and more as they guided safe reopening.
- We also launched a state-of-the-restaurant study in collaboration with the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis and the City of Charleston. In business, you move what you measure; by truly understanding how our restaurant partners are faring, we can be better advocates for policies that truly help them. Those findings are expected in March.
Meanwhile, know that we get it! One major point of our festival is for all of us to gather for fun, for learning opportunities, and to be a part of something big, and exciting and shivery. So 2021 will also feature a few new ways to “fest.”
We’ve announced the virtual version of our super popular Waffle House Smackdown. Considering this event sells out every year, we’re pretty excited to expand the size of our “tent” in 2021! Get your tickets for Thursday’s event here.
And our own March Madness continues with a full month of free, virtual programming that includes a cooking class, beverage workshop, panel discussion with World Central Kitchen and Heritage Radio Network and more. We’ve also partnered with Toyota to launch On a Road with Toyota, a campaign which will highlight the very best road food, as per some experts in the genre. Follow along on our Instagram account and you’ll also have a chance to win a new car!
For folks living and visiting here in our beloved hometown, we’re featuring two experiential opportunities:
- The Not So Signature dinner hybridizes our always-popular chef collaborations with a to-go meal made by a talented team.
- In partnership with S. Pellegrino, we’re launching a TakeOut Tuesday platform on social media, that encourages people to order from a local eatery each Tuesday. Enter to win a $250 gift card.
While we will miss seeing our friends, old and new, in the tents, on the streets, and in the restaurants this year, rest assured: we will all gather again. This year it’s virtual; next year, with hugs.