In a press release from the festival, executive director Gillian Zettler says, “Nearly $10 million dollars in economic impact is a stunning success for a 4–day festival. We knew that the weather would play a role in turnout, but it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of our attendees, who ate and drank their way through Charleston’s finest cuisine.” She’s right about the weather. Looking at Forecast.io, Thursday and Friday of this year’s festival were significantly colder than 2013, with rain starting in the afternoon of opening day and a high of just 45. That’s compared to 2013’s opening day with a lovely high of 61 degrees. So perhaps the drizzle did impact pocketbooks.
In addition to the overall take, the report, based on an email survey sent to 3,033 ticketed attendees, received 975 responses (488 from out of town guests and 487 from local guests), and includes stats on festival-goer demographics as well as what they’d like to see in the future. Attendees continue to be affluent, educated Boomers and early Gen Xers — the mean age of visitors was 52, for locals 49. And they were ready to spend, with out-of-towners shelling out $934 per person — up from $877 in 2013. As far as activities, not surprisingly, 31 percent of respondents said they most enjoyed the food and drink over the venue or vendors, but what they’d really like to see return next year for the big 10th anniversary are celebrity and top chefs. Someone better get Bourdain on the line. On the downside, the report suggests guests would like to see fewer people, more trashcans, rain plans, and more port-o-potties.
Interestingly, the big winner of the Festival was the new app (designed by Nashville-based developer Aloompa). One hundred percent of respondents say they downloaded it and 35 percent said that it enhanced the Festival. As for our own Waffle House Smack Down, it came in number 10 on the list of events attendees would like to see again. Considering it sold out in days, we think that’s code for “more seats needed.” Clearly not enough people fit in the tent to truly appreciate the joy of watching haute cuisine gurus freak out attempting to plate order call-outs like, “Mark order scrambled hold the grits. Waffle.”
The numbers are in and this year the Charleston Wine + Food Festival reports a $9.8 million economic impact. Last year it was $10.7 million, up more than $2 million from 2012, according to the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis.