Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Charleston Wine + Food Festival held its opening night at Marion Square on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Restaurants prepared samples, wine and other beverages were served and singer-songwriter JD McPherson played live music for the event. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

The Charleston Wine + Food Festival has more than its share of stereotypically masculine events: This year’s event featured cigar-smoking stations, a bourbon tasting with Preston Van Winkle and a barbecue extravaganza with more than two dozen pitmasters and chefs (all male, save for Amy Mills.)

Yet an attendee survey released this week shows women outnumbered men among this year’s attendees by a margin of nearly three to one. Festival representatives say they’re unsure whether the statistic shows women are fonder of the festival than their male counterparts, or if it’s merely a quirk of research methodology.

“Charleston Wine + Food continues to diversify programming to appeal to a wide variety of audience demographics,” spokeswoman Alyssa Maute Smith says. “While the largest portion of attendees is women, we do not design programming to specifically target women.”

This is the second year in a row that women apparently accounted for more than 70 percent of festival attendees; a gender breakdown wasn’t published in 2015.

But Melinda Patience, research coordinator at the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis, warns the results could reflect the fact that women tend to complete electronic surveys.

“It is a trend with most of our general visitor and festival surveys to skew more female than male, especially when the survey is sent out to email addresses from ticket sales or information inquiries,” says Patience, one of three researchers who worked on the report.

She continues, “We haven’t done any specific research on it, but other research shows that women are more likely to respond to surveys and do most of the travel planning in general.”

Although the situation isn't quite so extreme at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, 65 percent of its attendees are women.

"To be honest, as long as folks are buying our tickets, we don't really care if it's male or female," managing director John Trumble says, adding that the only programs which achieve near-parity are "large-scale, walk-around tasting events."

At the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Florida, the audience’s gender split is nearly even. This year, 56 percent of the event’s 65,000 attendees were women.

Although the Charleston Wine + Food Festival did not specify how many people bought tickets in 2017, the report estimates 8,442 out-of-towners were among them, which would put the total number around 16,800. The economic impact is listed as $9.6 million.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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