National Harbor Food and Wine Fest Expands to Draw 8,000

By T.J. Walter June 21, 2010, 2:20 PM EDT

National Harbor Food and Wine Festival
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Despite the high heat and the threat of thunderstorms, nearly 8,000 people traveled to National Harbor over the weekend of June 12 and 13 for the third annual Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor.
While the official theme was “Think Global, Eat Local,” the phrase “bigger and better” was mentioned frequently and could have easily served as the sub-theme for the festival. This year, the gathering expanded to two piers, saw a fourfold increase in pre-festival online sales, and increased attendance by nearly 2,000.

Show manager Lynn Schwartz attributed the attendance boost to a new social media and grassroots marketing approach. “For the first time, we used Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about pre-purchasing tickets,” Schwartz said. To further encourage people to pre-purchase, everyone who purchased online was entered into a raffle for a series of prizes from the festival. Schwartz also worked with every one of the exhibitors and provided them with official artwork and promo materials, so they could reach out to their mailing lists and customers in a grassroots way and encourage them to come out to the show.

When it came to the expansion of the festival to two piers, Schwartz said they did it to allow patrons more room to walk around and enjoy the booths. The added space also allowed some exhibitors to expand their booths and increase their offerings.

As in years past, the culinary stages were a big draw and the festival once again attracted top local talent, along with several nationally known names like HGTV’s Sabrina Soto, PBS host John Shields, and Top Chef finalist Carla Hall.

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