The 15th anniversary of Greenville’s annual euphoria food festival began differently than it had in years past.
And this had nothing to do with COVID-19, either.
The festival, which ran from Sept. 17-20, kicked off Thursday night with the surprise announcement that Table 301 owner and festival co-founder Carl Sobocinski had been awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
Gov. Henry McMaster showed up in person at Avenue Greenville, a downtown event space, to present the award during a dinner prepared by chef Drew Erickson.
Morgan Allen, euphoria’s executive director, said it wasn’t easy keeping the nomination a secret from Sobocinski.
“For so many people to know behind the scenes and for him to have no idea made it all the better,” Allen said. “And just given the fact that a while ago we weren’t even sure if we’d be able to celebrate 15 years, and then to have the festival not only go off smoothly but to have the governor show up too, it was just overwhelming for all of us.”
A learning opportunity
This year’s festival was more scaled-back than in years prior, with the large events and big crowds replaced with multiple smaller gatherings. Lunches, guest chef dinners and classrooms were the focus, allowing for social distancing and other safety measures.
Allen said it was a learning opportunity that has already inspired ideas for next year’s festival.
“We had such positive feedback for all the smaller events. The attention to detail that it allowed is something that’s definitely going to shape how we do things in the future,” Allen said. “I foresee us doing something like that moving forward, although who knows exactly what that looks like.”
The festival featured 39 individual events, more than 100 participating chefs and beverage professionals, 15 live performances and thousands of attendees.
In the weeks and months leading up to the festival, however, its organizers said they weren’t even sure the event would be feasible — let alone successful.
“I think on that first event Thursday night, there was a moment where we all took a deep breath and just said, ‘Wow, we’re here,’” Allen said. “There was a period when we didn’t even think we’d get to celebrate our 15th anniversary. There are always things that could come up. But I think us going into this with an open mind is really what helped make all this possible.”
Despite the unpredictable circumstances, Allen said she and her team walked away from this year’s event feeling more confident than they ever have before.
“This might be the first time I’ve ever said this, but I really think my team handled everything as well as possible,” she said. “I joke, but it’s true when I say that we changed the plans for the festival about 300 times. Now we’re all just feeling, I think, a little bit of relief and a lot of joy that nothing unexpected came up.”
As is tradition with the food festival, this year’s euphoria saw organizers partnering with local charities to give back to the community. The 2020 festival worked with United Ministries to donate food from Mill Village Farms to 20-25 families for a full year.
“With food being the focus of the festival, we really wanted to focus on helping with food insecurity,” Allen said. “Especially with the hardships of the time we’re all in, that’s more important than ever.”