Sweet Tea Festival brings attention to small businesses: ‘It’s their rising moment’

Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 6:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2022 at 5:32 AM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Saturday marked almost twelve years of the Summerville Sweet Tea Festival, which sheds light on small businesses, not just the refreshing beverage.

Throughout the day, visitors of the festival had the opportunity to visit many businesses scattered on each side of Main Street. Vendors selling arts & crafts, food, beverages and clothing were joined by a sweet tea competition and live music.

Steven Doniger, Summerville Dream Executive Director, who helped plan the event, said the festival exposes downtown as the epicenter for entertainment and small businesses in town.

“The economics behind the event are fantastic,” Doniger said. “Every year, we have people going in shops, restaurants, and bars, which gives all our micro businesses, who are our vendors, phenomenal days. So, this is a good place for that rising tide moment for all of our small businesses.”

The highlight of the festival is the sweet tea competition, which is when people are invited to walk around and sample as many sweet teas as they can before they vote on a favorite. Vendors in the contest go through about 50 to 60 gallons of sweet tea.

Bits N Bytes, a food truck and past winner of the competition, has participated at the festival for three years. Owner Anthony Leonard said every year gets better and better.

“Just like the town of Summerville says, every year it’s more and more people looking to come,” Leonard said. “They want to learn about it and are trying to have some fun. Enjoying yourself on a Saturday? You can’t beat that.”

Planning for the festival starts a year in advance, but despite the hard work, Doniger said it is rewarding to take a moment to look back and see the great crowds and cheering neighbors coming out.

“We celebrate our great community, celebrate our heritage and celebrate our history,” Doniger said. “People really love it too because it’s a fun event. We always say, keep it sweet, keep it local, keep it downtown, keep it beautiful, keep it Summerville.”