The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, or SEWE, as it is affectionately called, is a fixture on the Charleston festival scene and has been for more than three decades. Over time it has grown into one of the largest events of its kind in the nation. Today, SEWE welcomes over 40,000 guests and 500 artists and exhibitions annually, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy while raising conservation awareness.
And like its host city, it has changed over time. The popular exposition has expanded to honor featured artists, carvers, and sculptors attracting major figures from the worlds of conservation and zoology, and once even exhibited lions, tigers and bears at Marion Square. That process continues in 2019 as SEWE once again evolves to better meet its twin goals of promoting wildlife art and wildlife preservation.
No two years at SEWE have been the same. Here are five new reasons to visit this year’s event, which runs from Feb. 15-17:
1. More Room at Brittlebank
Although there are five official SEWE venues, Brittlebank Park often feels like the center of it all — because the Ashley River site is where the canine-oriented demonstrations like the famous DockDogs are conducted. Because SEWE’s ticketing system allows guests to visit all five venues with one price, Brittlebank can sometimes feel crowded, especially in nice weather.
The exposition has taken steps to remedy that by expanding into a larger Brittlebank footprint this year. “We may see an influx in crowds at certain times at Brittlebank Park, so we have incorporated more of the green space available in the park to make it more comfortable for our attendees and exhibitors alike,” says John Powell, SEWE‘s Executive Director.
2. A Relocated Kid Zone
Animals and children are naturally drawn to one another, which means there are no shortages of kids at SEWE. Now they have a place to call their own—a Kid Zone on the north side of the park’s permanent playground. Visitors will find child-focused activities such as inflatables, kids’ games, the exotic petting zoo, pony rides and more space for the festival’s littlest fans.
3. A New Marine Village
Anglers, take note: to satisfy a growing interest from marine and water-based exhibitors, the SEWE has expanded its Sporting Village offering at Brittlebank Park to include a marine village. Now, in addition to the usual array of land-based activities, you will also find exhibitors specializing in fishing, watersports and other marine pursuits.
4. Cooler Art, Literally
At its heart, SEWE is a unique art event that not only attracts some of the best-known wildlife artists but also features them along with their work — allowing them to tell the stories behind each piece, and create a more personal experience for guests. That heart beats at Charleston Place, where this year’s exposition will include artists Ryan Kirby and Chad Poppleton, who will each paint a wildlife scene on YETI Tundra coolers.
Upon completion, the coolers will be auctioned off, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit SEWE and a conservation group of the artists’ choice. The one-of-a-kind demonstration, called “Live Action Auction with YETI,” is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16.
5. Even More Dogs
Dogs are often the stars at SEWE — and this year, more than ever. Besides the high-flying DockDogs, who have been thrilling guests at the exposition for a decade, and the sheep- and duck-herding border collies, the STARR search and rescue dogs will make their Brittlebank Park debut.
An all-volunteer unit based in Swansea, the Search Tactics and Rescue Recovery Team has used its specially trained K-9s in searches for lost hikers, children and Alzheimer’s patients, water recoveries, and other emergencies. At SEWE, they will display training and small-scale demonstrations similar to their urban and rural search and recovery missions. The dogs will showcase their skills on Feb. 15 and 16 from 3:30-4:30 p.m., and Feb. 17 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Interested in more information about this year’s Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, or looking to purchase tickets? Contact the event at (843) 723-1748, or visit their website at SEWE.com.