As the waning days of winter finally pan to spring's polychromatic glow, Charleston, too, becomes a happy chameleon, greeting the worlds of art, food and fashion with some of its biggest annual events.
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE)
Marion Square and its surroundings become center stage for the largest festival of its kind in the country as the Lowcountry celebrates wildlife with fine art, sporting demonstrations and conservation exhibits at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo.
More than 500 artists, exhibitors and wildlife experts will include the 2015 featured artist, Grant Hacking, a South African painter who now makes his home in North Conway, N.H. Hacking's work not includes his memories of African wildlife and landscapes but also those closer to his newer home, including coastal and White Mountains scenes.
The 33rd annual SEWE also features the always-popular Dock Dog competitions and retriever demos at Brittlebank Park and birds of prey demos at Marion. A Busch Wildlife Sanctuary Show at Charleston Music Hall, fly-fishing demos and chef demos with the likes of Charleston Grill's Michelle Weaver are among other events awaiting SEWE's estimated 40,000 attendees.
Daily general-admission tickets are $20 Fri-Sat and $10 Sun; three-day tickets are $40. Special events, such as the Saturday night soiree and a Ducks Unlimited oyster roast Friday, cost extra. 843.723.1748
Charleston has become such the foodie destination that it does indeed take five days to hail the world of food and wine. Charleston Wine+Food, now in its 10th year, celebrates Lowcountry cuisine with James Beard Award-winning chefs from around the country as well as the region's best, along with top wine and brewery experts and local growers of food.
More than 100 events include signature dinners—paired with wine, of course—at Charleston's growing roster of top eateries. Many events are downtown, where big white tents of the chief Culinary Village dominate the Marion Square landscape, but there also are beverage events at the Culinary Institute of Charleston and trips with experts to such sites as the Firefly Distillery on Wadmalaw Island.
Principal nighttime events include the opening-night gala Wednesday at Marion, a cross-cultural barbecue on Thursday, a James Island fish fry and clam bake on Friday, and both a craft-beer dinner and barbecue-tent revival on Saturday.
Most events are separately ticketed; a general festival-goer most likely would opt for a culinary village/tasting ticket. Such an $85 ticket for Saturday, for example, gains access to the Grand Tasting Tent from noon to 2:30 pm, plus all signings, demos, tastings, music and other village events through 6 pm that day.
Proceeds from the festival benefit culinary and tourism scholarships in the Charleston area. 843.727.9998
Charleston Fashion Week
Marion Square once again becomes the chief place to strut as the ninth annual Charleston Fashion Week, sponsored by Baker Motor Company, showcases fashion and model talent from across the East Coast.
Hair-and-makeup corners promise to be frenzied as the Marion white tents present 35-plus runway shows, the Emerging Designer Competition: East, the Spring Bridal Show, and the Rock the Runway Model Competition. Twenty semifinalists have been named to present their collections on the runway for the Emerging Designer Competition, including South Carolina's Dina Lightsey and Elyssa Wingard.
A panel of top fashion designers picks the winner, whose $25,000 prize package includes an opportunity to be a featured designer at CFW 2016, an internship during New York Fashion Week 2015 and a private lunch with Fern Mallis, NY Fashion Week creator.
Fashion Week also means runway shows from nationally renowned designers, glam on-site tents, shopping in the nightclub setting of the Style Lounge and hip after-parties. Capping the event on Saturday is the Spring Bridal Show, at which dresses from local designers will be featured, as will the fashion of top national designer Amsale.
Runway show tickets start at $45 and include admission to the Style Lounge for a pre-party with entertainment and shopping for the wares of Fashion Week's jewelry, clothing and accessory retailers. 800.514.3849