Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Record-breaking attendance at Columbia Food and Wine Festival


The 2023 Columbia Food and Wine Festival brought 2,699 food lovers together for a culinary celebration consisting of eight events over five days featuring 124 culinary partners. In its sixth year, the festival boasted its highest attendance, highest restaurant participation, and highest amount of out-of-town visitors, making it the biggest festival yet. Both locals and culinary enthusiasts from across the region participated in the festival events which included seated chef collaboration meals, a cocktail competition, a culinary class, tasting events, and more.

Since its debut in 2018, Columbia Food and Wine Festival has brought over 9,600 guests together at 34 events featuring 274 culinary partners at locations across the greater Columbia region, in both Richland and Lexington counties.

Columbia Food and Wine Festival, a Growing Tourism Draw

Columbia Food and Wine Festival drew in hundreds of visitors from throughout the Southeast, providing an opportunity to enjoy local culinary experiences and explore other attractions. For the first time in festival history, more than half of paid ticketholders were from outside the City of Columbia. In 2023, 51 percent of paid ticketholders came from outside the City of Columbia, and 17 percent came from outside the Midlands region. Ticketholders represented nine states and 102 unique zip codes.

In 2023, the festival worked to attract more out-of-town guests and increase regional attention in support of Columbia’s growth within the hospitality and tourism industries. Recently, Columbia ranked second out of 12 competitive regions in the Southeast for annual growth rate share of employment in leisure and hospitality, per Elevate Midlands, an annual report from the Midlands Business Leadership Group that highlights the growth of the Columbia region.

The Columbia Food and Wine Festival was proud to collaborate with Lula Drake, a 2023 James Beard Foundation awards finalist, in two signature events — Pasta & Pairings and Desserts & Digestifs. The restaurant also participated in the Grand Tasting, Spotted Salamander, a James Beard semifinalist also participated in the festival’s Grand Tasting.

As part of its mission to support the local culinary community, the festival looks for ways to highlight and celebrate the wins of its restaurant partners.

Eight Food-Filled Events Drive Highest Attendance Numbers Ever

This year’s lineup of one-of-a-kind events included seven signature events and the Grand Tasting.

The Kick-Off Dinner at Motor Supply featured a three-course chef collaboration from Blake Fairies of Loosh Culinaire, Frank Bradley of Hendrix, and Wes Fulmer of Motor Supply. The following day was all penne and pastries. Chef Pierce Bowers of Dorsia Pasta Co. led a pasta-making class at Pasta & Pairings with wine paired from Mike Wine-Guy and a menu including Lula Drake’s cheese and charcuterie board along with two pastas from Bowers and Lula Drake Chef Rachael Harrison. At Desserts and Digestifs, guests mingled in the lobby of Hotel Trundle with live jazz music and an assortment of sweet treats from Smoked, Lula Drake, and Tess Snipes with dessert wine pairings from Lula Drake’s Tim Gardner dessert wine selections, Branca USA digestif samplings and Smoked dessert cocktails.

Mixer on Main: The Remix featured a cocktail competition from 11 mixologists throughout the Main Street District and a panel of judges made up of journalists and beverage pros. Capital City Club’s Persephone cocktail was selected as the winner. The people’s choice award went to Hendrix’s Don’t Believe Me, Just Scotch cocktail.

At Brunch & Bungees, guests were led through a series of low-impact exercises before enjoying bites and sips from Tasty as Fit and Café Strudel. The Mezze on the Menu lunch featured a three-course meal from Always Original Bakery, Arabesque, Mediterranean Tea Room, and Pita’s. The CAE Concert on the Runway featured six local food trucks and a rocking musical lineup.

The Grand Tasting boasted nearly 2,000 attendees at Historic Columbia’s Robert Mills House and Gardens with tastes from more than 70 vendors, including restaurants, breweries, cocktail stations, and more. With chef and beverage demos and a first-ever wine shop, the festival provided unique educational opportunities for guests.

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