March 2, 2015
Even though I wrote about the subject right after I resigned two years ago as Director of the Festival, I thought with this week’s 10 year anniversary that it was a good time to reflect, remind, and recall my top ten moments of the last ten years of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival:
- The Original Planning Committee: Little has been mentioned in this year’s celebrations about the original group of volunteers who made the festival what it is today. But they cannot be forgotten and this group should be recognized for all the hard work, time, money, tears, contacts, and wisdom they put into the event that very first year and almost every one since: thank you Caroline Lee Jackson, Caroline Mancill, Craig Donofrio, Linn Lesesne, Lisa Buzzelli, Nathalie Dupree, Marc Collins, Matt McKeown, Marion Sullivan, Michael Saboe, and Mickey Bakst. You rock!
- Year Two and all the Mistakes: I admit, we got a little cocky with the Festival after having a very successful first year and it bit us hard. We had mud pits at the opening gala, a fire marshall threatening to close the Village, a kid’s village, 20,000 recipe books to bind and assemble by hand by a team of volunteers (sorry Deidre), trade day, and an 18 wheeler truck driving down King Street filled with pork and grills from a famous pitmaster. Don’t get me wrong, it was not all bad, and I greatly appreciated the lessons we learned and the plans we made for the future as a result of it.
- Laura Hewitt: One of the Festival’s founding board members, also became the second Board Chair and her and her husband Bill helped fund and found the Friends of the Festival Program. Laura was a champion of good food and wine in Charleston and she led the charge to make the Festival financially sound. She was a great mentor, friend, supporter, mother-type for me and I was devastated with her loss last year. She will always be an angel overlooking Marion Square making sure the event goes as planned.
- Daniel Boulud, Bobby Flay and all the guest chefs: It was an amazing opportunity for me to meet all of the chefs I did over the eight years running the Festival. Some were true gems, some were amazing talents, and some were huge a-holes. I could write a book about my dealings and wish I had kept a journal to document it all. I am fortunate that so many of them are good friends today (especially you snack) and have continued to support me on my efforts and pursuits.
- Frank Stitt: One chef in particular stood out as one that had a lasting impression. Not just on me, but on Charleston. His influence and impact became so apparent the one year he took a break from the Festival, that we decided it was only appropriate to name an annual chef award after him and organize a tribute dinner in his honor. It was an incredible experience to witness his surprise by the attention (because he is that humble) and hopefully he will continued to be honored for his major impact on southern cuisine. Hint, hint James Beard Awards Committee…
- All the crazy event ideas: Thanks to people like Jeff Allen, Ida Becker, Mitchell Crosby, and others who came to us with some “out there” ideas. It was risky to organize events like the Critics Dinner at Ft. Sumter, the Wafflehouse Smackdown, an offshore fishing trip with a dozen or so chefs, the James Beard Foundation semi-finalists announcement pre-dinner at Ft. Moultrie, and a soul food shuffle, but the reward was the end result–some of the best events produced in the city, and possibly at any festival ever.
- The “behind-the-scenes” moments: There was so much that was never seen by the public eye but were defining moments of the festival. Things like an unnamed staff member leaving a van running for over 12 hours before noticing, a board member carrying endless amounts of cash around the park not knowing how or where to store it, and all of the things that happened in the FIG kitchen at the after party. I could go on and on about these moments more than any others and it is probably the one thing I miss the most. #updog
- My events dream team Randi Weinstein and Sara Donahue: I could not say enough about the two of these ladies. They are incredibly talented and dedicated and the three of us just clicked. I have never seen two people work so hard, dedicate so much of their time and life to something, and accomplish so much for an event. I miss working with them and if I could, would erect a monument somewhere in Marion Square in their honor.
- Spending time with my Mom: From the very first year, my mother and her partner Bob, would drive down from her home in the upstate to work a full week at the Festival. The first part of the week was spent with me, and the rest for the event itself. She did anything and everything I asked and was on site before most staff and often the last to leave. Aside from that, she was my greatest cheerleader. Not having that much time together growing up, it was nice to finally have time to bond and it was incredibly touching to have so many people come up to me during the weekend and say “I met your mom, and she is really proud of you Angel!” Those were some of the best words I heard all weekend and I treasure those weeks we spent together.
- Being a Guest: I am still working with the Festival indirectly, this time via my clients. But my goal when first starting the Festival was to always be a spectator, and I am excited to now be in that position. There is nothing better than to sleep in, stay up late, eat and drink, and not have to worry about the weather, pissing off a million folks, dealing with the egos, and having to care about what was or was not selling out. I do recognize how hard that job is and commend the new team leading the charge to continue to grow and build an amazing Festival. Cheers to 10 years and may the next 10 be filled with another blog of memories and highlights of an incredible event for our city!