What is SEWE, you ask? The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, or SEWE for short, is the region’s largest showcase of nature lovers through dog competitions, birds of prey shows, arts events and culinary demonstrations. The expo is typically over the second weekend in February, which often falls on Valentine’s Day. The best part about SEWE is that it has something to offer every age and interest, in addition to being one of the more affordable Charleston festivals.
1. Book early. While you can typically get tickets to most of the events right before the festival, hotel rooms fill up fast, especially downtown near the majority of the events. The Southeastern Wildlife Expo is one of the city’s top events, along with Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, Spoleto Festival USA and Cooper River Bridge Run.
2. Check out a variety of events. Marion Square is ground zero for all things SEWE, hosting the birds of prey demonstration, lots of animals from area wildlife centers and booths for wildlife art. Brittlebank Park near The Citadel is home to the popular Dock Dogs competition, where pups jump as far as they can into a pool. The King Street Stroll has specialties in many shops and businesses along the way, showcasing live painting, champagne and bites. Chef demonstrations allow guests to sample cuisine from award winners. You might even spot Jack Hanna, who appears at the festival every year.
3. Dress the part. If you’re attending one of the galas, be sure to dress your best. On the other hand, most people frequent the rest of the events in jeans and jackets.
4. Be realistic. You can purchase a 3 Day pass, which gets you into the entire weekend’s events, or daily passes. You don’t have to see it all in one day if you don’t want to. And keep in mind that you can see a few events early in the day, rest in the afternoon, and continue into the night.
5. Get outside of the tents. Some of my favorite events are the the unofficial ones, like The Cocktail Club’s Buffalo Trace bourbon tasting, the Ducks Unlimited Oyster Roast and the Sportsman’s Ball.
Friday and Saturday tickets cost $20, Sunday tickets cost $10 and weekend passes cost $40. Visit the Southeastern Wildlife Expo for the full schedule of events. Shuttle services are included in ticket price to get you between event locations.
See my article for the Charleston City Paper on my experience at the expo back in 2010.