Despite uncertainty in this economic climate, the BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival rang in its most successful year yet and plans to increase its charitable donations by about 250 percent.

A study by the College of Charleston's Office of Tourism Analysis found that the event's total economic impact reached nearly $2.4 million, up from $2.2 million last year. Both labor income and tax revenue climbed by tens of thousands of dollars.

The 2009 festival welcomed 15,000 attendees this year, or 2,000 more people than in 2008. Of those guests, 44 percent came from out of town, and nearly 14 percent marked their first visit to Charleston. On average, visitors spent $610 locally.

Nearly all of the festival's more than 50 events sold out. Ticket sales came in about $83,000 higher than budgeted and more than $200,000 higher than last year.

Charity money soared from $20,000 in donations in 2008 to $70,000 at last month's event. Organizers said the festival plans to give $50,000 to its signature charity, the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital. That's $37,500 more than last year.

The festival will increase its scholarship funds for College of Charleston and the Culinary Institute of Charleston and will launch a scholarship for The Art Institute of Charleston. The event also generated food for Crisis Ministries and money for the Lowcountry Food Bank.

The festival's financial report is due out in June.

History for half

South Carolina residents with valid identification get Middleton Place's $25 adult garden admission at half price this weekend.

The deal coincides with Saturday's special day recognizing the plantation's two decades of research into its history of slavery. Visitors can take African-American Focus Tours throughout the day, with stops including a demonstration rice field, a rice mill, a plantation chapel and a slave cemetery.

Authors Barbara Doyle, Mary Edna Sullivan and Tracey Todd, who wrote "Beyond the Fields: Slavery at Middleton Place," will sign books at the Museum Shop from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Middleton first shared its slavery story with visitors in 1970 when it opened its stableyards complex to illustrate rice plantation life. Since then, the attraction's foundation has pored over public records to piece together a more complete story.

Preferred property

Summerville's AAA Five-Diamond and Mobil Five-Star property Woodlands Inn recently became a member of the prestigious Preferred Hotel Group and two of its brands. One brand, Preferred Hotels and Resorts, features more than 200 premier independent destinations around the world. Woodlands' inclusion in the brand affords it extra sales and marketing support, plus increased reservation visibility.

The other, Historic Hotels of America, includes more than 220 hotels across the country that are at least 50 years old, historically significant and maintained to preserve that character. The National Trust for Historic Preservation formed the program in 1989.

Woodlands is part of Salamander Hospitality, the brainchild of billionaire entrepreneur and Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson. The property is one of four North American properties with the industry's highest ratings for both accommodations and dining.