Charleston Wine + Food Festival edges closer to director hire

BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival's official wine glass. Courtesy of

The BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival already is looking ahead to its milestone 10th edition in 2015, but the staff and board first need to pull off the 2014 festival, scheduled for March 6-9.

Although communications director Ashley Zink says planning for next year has continued apace without an executive director — the position's been vacant since founder Angel Postell resigned this spring — ticket sales are starting a few weeks later than usual and a schedule of events still wasn't available at presstime.

“We decided to give ourselves a little more time,” Zink explains.

When a new director is hired, he or she won't have much say in 2014 programming, since most everything needs to be squared away before the ticket launch party Sept. 18 at Mixson Bath & Racquet Club. Still, board chairman Rick Jerue says the festival hopes to have a director in place by November.

“The festival will be put to bed, so even if we'd had someone on board in July or August, they wouldn't have had much input,” Jerue says. “The director can provide direction, but the staff is carrying forth.”

While Zink says staffers wanted to retain the festival's most popular elements, they made a few changes to the schedule in response to attendee feedback.

The 2014 event features the festival's first-ever oyster roast, a sandwich showcase, and new dinners at Xiao Bao Biscuit, Two Boroughs Larder, Edmund's Oast and Butcher & Bee. The opening party also is returning to Marion Square.

The executive director position was advertised in July, after consultant Jack Hoey conducted extensive interviews with staff and board members to determine what they wanted from an executive director.

Hoey culled 50 promising applicants from the pool of 250. The 20 applicants who performed best in phone interviews were then presented to the board's search committee.

The search committee last week started interviewing its eight top candidates in person and via Skype and hopes to settle on two or three finalists.

“Some are local, some are not,” Jerue says. If there are any out-of-towners in the group, he says the festival will bring them to Charleston “to meet with key stakeholders.”

Among the “qualifications and characteristics of preferred candidates” listed in the posting for the job, which pays $80,000-$110,000, are “a demonstrated ability to develop and cultivate long-term relationships with sponsors” and “proficiency in financial planning, budgeting and management.”

“It's now a $2 million annual budget,” Jerue says, stressing the board's emphasis on fiscal responsibility. “It's a $10 million economic impact.”

“I think the board wanted to make sure we knew what we were looking for,” he continues.

Meanwhile, Zink says organizers are are striving to find the right balance of tradition and innovation for the festival's big 10th anniversary, more than a year and a half away.

“We're already asking, 'What do you want to see us bring back? What do you miss?'”

Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.

Earlier versions of this story contained incorrect dates for the 2014 festival.