Sweet Tea Festival returns to Summerville Saturday

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:58 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - The Summerville Sweet Tea Festival returns to Hutchinson Square this weekend after a shift in how things were presented last year because of the pandemic.

Summerville Dream, the nonprofit that organizes the festival, says this is the first festival on their calendar this year. While they have had some smaller entertainment events throughout the week after realizing those worked last year, Executive Director Steven Doniger says Saturday’s all-day festival will set the tone for future festivals returning soon.

“That’s what these things are really all about at the end of the day,” Doniger said. “Is that everybody came out, had a good time, had a chance to reconnect with one another and get a chance to see the magic of Summerville because this is an extraordinary downtown and a great community for people to come out and do things.”

The Sweet Tea Festival runs from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Doniger says usually they have around 130 vendors, but they scaled that number down to about 70 this year to allow for more social distancing. He says the vendors are mostly all from South Carolina and will feature food, art, and crafts.

All the existing stores and restaurants in Hutchinson square will be open as well.

Some of the event staples return like sweet tea tasting, a contest to vote on your favorite, and restaurants featuring special sweet tea-inspired entrees.

“Downtown Summerville is the heart of Summerville,” Doniger said. “This is our historic district. This is where our small businesses thrive, this is the backbone of everything we do. So, when we can bring out people and have them exposed to our downtown, do some shopping and dining, it’s always a wonderful thing. We have to recognize that it’s been a really difficult year for everybody, but economically, we have to also work together to find a balance to go ahead and keep our doors open, lights on, and activities happening.”

Doniger says in previous years, they estimate millions of dollars were brought in from the festival from meals, shopping, hotel stays, and people traveling.

He says there are a few people who travel from out of state, but it’s mostly a celebration of Summerville and the Lowcountry, which is where the majority of visitors will be from.

Doniger says throughout the year, they’ve seen a steady rise in visitors and expect 10,000 to 12,000 people will visit the Sweet Tea Festival throughout the entire day.

The Sweet Tea Festival is free to attend. Doniger says masks are recommended and folks are asked to social distance as much as possible.

Little Main Street and the cross streets around Hutchinson Square, like West Richardson Avenue, will be closed Saturday afternoon for the Sweet Tea Festival.

For last year’s festival, organizers shifted the style to smaller events held throughout the week.

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