More than 70 percent of the Culinary Village booths this year “had some sort of alcoholic component,” a Charleston Wine + Food Festival spokeswoman says, confirming many ticket holders’ suspicions that food is no longer the dominant theme of the festival’s signature event.
“It seemed that all of the drink vendors were the focus, with a little food at their booths to slow you down,” says Jim Christie, one of more than 12,000 people who attended the Marion Square extravaganza over its three-day run. “We still had a great time, but it seemed less special.”
According to marketing director Alyssa Maute-Smith, 108 of the 124 booths that made up the Culinary Village were classified as “food-or-drink related,” with the balance offering retail items that can’t be consumed on the spot, such as books and bow ties. Of those food-or-drink booths, 89 served beer, wine or spirits.
But Maute-Smith adds, “We challenged all vendors that served alcohol to include a food component. We want to partner with people who believe that responsible drinking matters.”
Guinness, for instance, served cubed cheese alongside its iconic beer.
By Maute-Smith’s count, 40 percent of the alcohol purveyors offered a snack. Additionally, she says, the Village featured 17 “snack shacks,” and major sponsors were asked to supply non-alcoholic drinks, such as agua fresca or kombucha. Still and sparkling water were also abundant this year, with coolers scattered across the festival grounds.
While ticket-holders who contacted The Post and Courier were generally pleased with the Village’s open layout and relative lack of lines, a number of them wondered whether “Culinary Village” remains an apt name for an event at which Maker’s Mark, Bottles Beverage Superstore and Don Julio Tequila loom largest.
“It just seems more like a drunk fest down there now,” grumbled one caller who didn’t leave her name.