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August’s Columbia Food and Wine Festival retooled and reduced due to COVID-19

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The 2019 Columbia Food and Wine Festival

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Columbia Food and Wine Festival will no longer hold its marquee tasting event or any of the various smaller dining events previously scheduled for between Aug. 20 and 23.

Instead, this year’s festival will consist of two outdoor meals on Aug. 22 and 23, organizers — including Free Times’ events arm — announced in a Monday press release.

The release explains that the move is a way to create “a safer, more controlled experience for sponsors, vendors and attendees.” The two events, an Aug. 22 dinner and an Aug. 23 brunch, are four-course meals.

“While we regret that the 2020 Columbia Food and Wine Festival schedule cannot be carried out as it was originally intended, our team is excited for this reworked programming,” Free Times publisher Chase Heatherly is quoted in the release. “These controlled outdoor dining experiences will allow for us to fulfill our mission of highlighting and celebrating our region’s blossoming food and beverage industry while placing health and safety of our attendees and vendors as our top priority.”

The meals, held at both the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House, will be held in four zoned seating areas, with two zones on each property, the release details. Each zone will hold up to 100 attendees, with a cap of 400 attendees for each meal.

Teams of three to four chefs will prepare unique menus for each zone.

The release also details the festival’s safety plan. It includes measures like expanded registration and check-in procedures, checking body temperatures prior to entry, making masks and hand sanitizer available to attendees, putting no more than six people at each table and spacing them at least six feet apart, and specific directions for entry and exit.

Initially, the festival included several smaller “satellite events," which consisted of things like a kickoff dinner at the upscale Five Points restaurant Saluda’s and a barbecue-focused celebration.

The festival was originally slated for the week of April 26, before being postponed in March. At that time, it was part of a slew of local and national events that were postponed or cancelled, including St. Pat’s in Five Points and the Carolina Cup horse race in Camden.

The CFWF release details that existing sponsors and ticket holders will have first access to grab seats for the new dinner and brunch, starting July 13. Remaining tickets will be released on July 16. When purchasing tickets, the zone’s menu theme and chef lineup will be revealed.

Tickets cost $65 for the brunch and $95 for the dinner. The price includes food and beverages, but not gratuity.

Existing ticket holders will also have the option to use those tickets for corresponding events during the 2021 festival.

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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