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Owens: Thank you from Savannah Food & Wine Festival

It’s the last few days of the Savannah Food &Wine Festival, and we’ve had hundreds of people enjoying top chef and top shelf food and wine.

If you’ve had the opportunity to come or are planning to be at this weekend’s festivities, thank you.

Your ticket is a part of something bigger going on in our community. We know festivals bring in a lot of outside spending (and tax revenue) to our area.

In particular, the Savannah Food &Wine Festival brings in more than $7 million into our economy through direct spending from the guests who are coming to partake in the festival, eat at our restaurants, stay in our hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts, and shop in our stores. That money coming in is taxed to help with the services and infrastructure upon which we rely. It’s money to help provide jobs. It’s money to boost our local economy, and it’s money that wouldn’t otherwise be here if it weren’t for this festival.

If you’ve volunteered for this festival or any other festival in Savannah, thank you.

In order to make this festival happen, it takes the power of people — 521 to be exact. That is how many volunteers are needed to make all the events within the festival run.

Today, hundreds of volunteers are at the Georgia State Railroad Museum lifting boxes, hanging signs, moving furniture and preparing to welcome thousands of guests to the Taste of Savannah, the signature event of the Savannah Food &Wine Festival.

These “Agents of Southern Hospitality” help with setup, registration, food and wine distribution, and assisting the celebrity chefs in attendance, among other things. They’ve all taken time out of their busy schedule to serve. Some have even traveled here from Virginia and Massachusetts just to volunteer for this festival. And, some have volunteered every one of the five years we’ve put this on.

If you or your business have helped the festival by donating goods and services, thank you.

Thousands of bottles of wine and spirits are poured every year. Thousands of dishes are piled with expertly crafted food. We have distributors and chefs pull away from their busy schedules to be a part of what’s happening with Savannah Food &Wine Festival. The work they do is surely not easy. But most do it because they love food and wine, they love to share Savannah, or they love to give back to the community. Hundreds of hotel rooms, restaurant certificates and gifts were donated to raise money.

The festival has helped raise more than $200,000 for local, Savannah nonprofit organizations since the festival’s inception in 2013.

Some of those organizations have included Bethesda Academy, Patrick Ansley Williams Scholarship Fund at Savannah Technical College, Savannah Harbor Foundation, TLC Scholarship Fund, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, James Beard Foundation, United Way of the Coastal Empire, the National Trust for Historical Preservation, Coastal Heritage Society, and West Broad Street YMCA.

Also, several of the festival events showcase charity partners in raising funds and awareness. So far this week, we’ve had events benefiting the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, James Beard Foundation and TLC Scholarship Fund, which has given more than $80,000 to students studying hospitality and tourism.

We have a lot to be thankful for this season. I’m thankful for the volunteers, vendors, sponsors, partners, supporters and all of the residents of Savannah.

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Michael Owens is the president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council and co-founder of the Savannah Food &Wine Festival. You can find out more about the festival at www.savannahfoodandwinefest.com.

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