MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA With the 12th annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine starting Thursday, thousands of locals and visitors will flock to Miami Beach for four days of imbibing and indulging. This year, the fest features several first-time events, as well as new sponsorships and brand activations and an expanded social media presence. Here are eight things to look out for at one of the largest gatherings of food and wine aficionados in the world.
1. Burger Bash activations: New brands are joining the famed Burger Bash Friday night. “We continue to push the limits of the North Venue by adding larger and more intricate sponsor activations, as well as studying the space to accommodate the greatest number of featured chefs while maintaining guest flow and comfort,” said Randy Fisher of Culinary Related Entertainment and Marketing. “We will see a number of social media installations and an improved lighting and sound system this year.” Returning beer sponsor Amstel Light will stream live Instagram images in its activation using the hashtag #burgerbash. Havaianas will incorporate a social media wall featuring photos of guests wearing new flip-flop giveaways and food-themed pins, and Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors will host a judges’ lounge for celebrity judges and a V.I.P. guests.
2. Reggae closing party: Ziggy Marley will join host Guy Fieri at the Official Festival Closing Party on Sunday. The reggae jam-themed finale on the sands of South Beach will feature Jamaican and other Caribbean fare, island tunes, and interactive beach games. “We’re always looking to have fun with Guy,” says Kelly Murphy, director of business development of Panache Party Rentals, who will curate the final fiesta. Designs by Sean is helping with the design.
3. Lounging with Sears: Sears has created the Sears Outdoor Living Grilling Is Happiness Lounge, which will be open at the Q and the Q After Dark, Burger Bash, and the closing party. The sponsorship will launch the Sears 2013 Lighted Patio collection, which will serve as decor inside the lounge, along with the Kenmore Elite grill line. Chef George Hirsh will grill burgers and dessert patties for guests and offer outdoor entertaining tips at each event, and television's Ty Pennington will visit the lounge. Sears produced the event in house and will be promoting it via social media with the #GrillingIsHappiness hashtag.
4. Barbecue branding: Thrillist’s BBQ & the Blues will introduce new branding in the form of BBQ & the Blues emergency kits for its Saturday-night party at Eden Roc. “When planning the event, I thought, ‘What would I need if I were attending?’ and the kits pretty much invented themselves,” Thrillist events producer Adrienne Wright said. The kits, in the form of steel buckets, will be placed throughout the space and contain branded hand wipes, stain remover pens, mints, toothpicks, and bottled water. Social media will have a large presence at the event, where tents will encourage guests to tweet and Instagram about the event. The posts will be displayed on a social media feed behind the main bar to keep guests engaged.
5. Activation with a view: Transitions Optical, working with chef Robert Irvine, will have a two-story activation at the Grand Tasting Village called the Enhanced Vision Experience. Attendees can take in the entire beach from an upper outlook deck through special viewfinders while trying out Transitions adaptive lenses products. Irvine will provide sorbet samples. At an interactive photo shoot, guests will pose at a dining set with props—with possible cameos from Irvine. The photos will be emailed to participants.
6. Evian's social campaign: Leading up to the festival, longtime sponsor Evian, along with Live Young, has launched a social media campaign with chef Richard Blais, using Instagram for its #evianeats photo activation. “We see Instagram as the best social platform for live visual storytelling, which makes it the perfect tool to capture the sights and sounds of South Beach through the eyes of chef Blais,” said Ruth Heronemus from MKG. Blais has already started sharing daily culinary photos via @evianwater to promote the hashtag. Once the festival kicks off, Blais will post his daily experiences via #evianeats, and attendees can also share their memorable moments, namely at the Grand Tasting Evian Water photo booth, where snapshots will be printed as keepsakes.
7. New hosts at the Q: The Q and the Q After Dark returns with plenty of bubbly—and bubbly hosts Paula Deen and her sons Bobby and Jamie Deen. Moët & Chandon will partner with Omaha Steaks to provide the champagne and protein, while Hennessy, Belvedere, Grand Marnier, and 10 Cane Rum will provide four specialty cocktails for the for the double-headed event, which takes place behind the Delano on Thursday night.
8. Las Vegas invasion: Cosmopolitan Las Vegas will host an official after-party event on Saturday night called South Beach After Dark at Estiatorio Milos, featuring live music by Miami’s electronic DJ duo Ess & Em. Restaurateur Costas Spiliadis will dish out Mediterranean bites from his South Beach eatery, while the hotel's mixologist, Chris Hopkins, creates custom cocktails.