Charleston Wine & Food Festival brings millions to local economy

Updated: Mar. 1, 2017 at 8:15 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston Wine & Food Festival officially kicked off its five-day event Wednesday evening.

The culinary experience brings in millions to the local economy.

It has been one of the Lowcountry's main attractions for 12 years.

"We would expect more than 20,000 to come to the Food & Wine Festival," Wayne Smith, with the College of Charleston, said. "It's going to be a great event with great weather in a great place."

It is not just locals that pour into downtown Charleston for the event.

"We get to share it with locals and we also get to use it to share what we have going on here in the Holy City to the entire country and even beyond the U.S. We had over 10 countries represented at the festival last year," festival executive director Gillian Zettler said.

"It gets a little crazy around this time," Bay Street Biergarten owner Ryan Workman added. Bay Street Biergarten hosts the breweries at the festival. "You have a lot of people in town, a lot of people coming from all over the place."

The crowd brings millions of dollars to the local economy.

"The economic impact last year was more than triple our budget," Zettler explained. "We saw a $9.1 million economic impact in just one weekend."

"You do see a lot of business pick up," Workman said.

"It is a wide-known phenomenon," Smith said.

Last year, the average attendee spent $933. It is not just restaurants that get the financial boost.

"You have this rapid insurgence of people that come here so excited to be here in Charleston," Zettler said. "Many come back here each year specifically for this festival and they're eager to see what's new, they're eager to dine in new places, they're eager to shop on King Street. We're just lucky that the city rolls out the red carpet for our guests every time that they come."

Typically a destination for history, studies show the Charleston Wine & Food Festival opened up a secondary market for Charleston.

"It used to be people would come here for the history, that's what we saw in all the studies," Smith explained. "Two years ago, food and gastronomy now matches the reason why people come to Charleston. The Food & Wine Festival is a catalyst for that change."

The festival hosts more than 100 events, hundreds of chefs, and about 162 pounds of butter.

"Great restaurants, great chefs, great food, great artisan areas, great shopping, as well," Workman said. "And also the biergarten."

"Coming to a festival event is a great way to sip and sample everything that Charleston has to offer," Zettler said.

Although there may be something for everyone, you must be 21+ up to attend the festival.

For more information, visit the festival website.

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