Founded in 2006 by musician Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, Greenville’s food, wine, and music festival, euphoria, is no longer merely a local event, as proven by the addition of Michelin-starred guest chefs and a growing number of James Beard Foundation award winners and finalists to the lineups over the last few years.
With the festival’s location between Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, which have similar festivals on a larger scale, the leadership realized after the last festival, held annually in September, it was time to make some changes in order to remain relevant in the regional and national festival scene.
“euphoria Greenville has reached a critical stage in its development. We are no longer a startup festival,” says Jack Bacot, board vice chairman of euphoria. “We have matured from a successful local event into a food, wine, and music festival that is receiving national attention and recognition. euphoria Greenville has become a destination event, and we haven’t scratched the surface of our potential.”
The most immediate change, which serves as the catalyst for the festival’s future transformation, is appointing a new executive director. After the 2017 festival, the board decided to conduct a nationwide search for a new executive director to give the organization an opportunity to grow under new leadership.
“We realized we needed to position euphoria for future success, and the executive director position is critical to that vision,” Bacot says.
After a national search conducted by a third-party firm that resulted in 155 applicants, Morgan Allen, euphoria’s former event director of food & beverage since she moved to Greenville in 2016, has been promoted to the role of executive director. Brianna Shaw, former executive director, departed in November 2017.
“The board decided to engage a national search firm to make sure we had the best candidates available that would move the needle forward,” Bacot says. “Morgan submitted her resume, and she received the same consideration and process as any other national candidate. As a board, we were not aware she was interested in the position of executive director until the search firm placed her in the top five finalists.”
Allen, who had been filling the role for the last few months, says she wasn’t initially planning to apply for the job.
Much of Allen’s role will be securing sponsorships for the festival, which is critical to keeping ticket sales at a level that still allows the events to remain intimate and not overcrowded — a key to euphoria’s unique identity.
“Community support and sponsorships are the lifeblood of any successful event — Artisphere and Fall for Greenville are prime examples,” Bacot says. “The board knew that to grow, we needed to focus more on support and sponsorships than ticket sales to sustain and grow the event.”
Before accepting the executive director role, Allen secured the Lexus sponsorship, which is euphoria’s first ever national presenting sponsorship, Bacot says.
“The board has challenged her, and all board members, to develop and secure sponsors to give us the resources to bring in a strong list of talent in food and music supported by key wine and spirit vendors,” Bacot says. “Greenville deserves a well-balanced, upscale food, wine, and music festival that attracts national talent — sponsorships are key to that potential. With more community support and sponsorships, you will see positive changes in what is presented and the level of talent coming to Greenville.”
Allen says a primary responsibility will be nurturing relationships with current sponsors, cultivating relationships with new ones, and increasing the sponsorship dollars coming in.
“These truly are partnerships we’re forming,” she says. “We’re working to build lasting relationships in our community so they’re beneficial to all of our partners.”
That may mean more travel for her as she seeks out more media as well.
“We’re definitely planning to take a few road trips to meet with regional and national media and encourage them to come to Greenville for euphoria, which — in turn — brings a strong tourism and economic impact back home,” she says.
The resulting changes from the board’s restructured approach may not be as noticeable this year as they will in the years to come, Bacot says.
“We have some surprises planned, but the biggest changes will come in the near future as we position euphoria for the next 10 years,” he says.
Bacot says he and the board believe Allen, of all the potential candidates, was the right choice to enact the changes they want to see with the festival.
“I believe she understood the odds and put together one of the most impressive proposals to manage an event that I have witnessed. Her thoughts, ideas, and management proposal, while not unique, were refreshing and aggressive, and she had some tough competition,” he says. “Morgan did not simply say, ‘I want the job’ — she developed a strong proposal that convinced the committee, board, and the search firm that she was best suited for the job. I’m confident the board made the right decision, and I’m anxious to see her proposal come to fruition.”
The lineup and tickets for the Sept. 20-23 festival will be released during Roast & Toast on April 22.