SEWE brings significant economic boost to Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Sunday was the final day for the 40th annual Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE), but the financial impact of the event is still being felt throughout the Lowcountry.

SEWE is celebrating the end of its fortieth year after last year was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“We didn’t quite know what to expect,” SEWE president and CEO Jimmy Huggins said. “I think it was that pent up energy to get out and get together with people from all over the country that meet here every year.”

The annual wildlife expo brings a large crowd and a large financial boost to Charleston.

“We’re excited that we’re able to give this boost to the City of Charleston after so long and get things rolling again for this area,” Huggins said.

So, just how much of an economic impact does the event have?

“Normally in the past,” Huggins said. “It’s been around $50-60 million dollar boost to the economy. We don’t quite know what it is for this year because we haven’t tallied everything up.”

Many exhibitors also have success selling at SEWE, like Liz Lewis, who travels from Montana year after year.

“I’ve been coming to Charleston to SEWE to the art show here for,” Lewis said. “This will be my eighth year. Of course, last year was skipped for COVID, but we’re all really super excited to be back.”

Lewis says the expo is her biggest show by far each year.

“This has been a show for me that has grown ever year,” she said. “I have collectors here in Charleston, but I also have collectors from all over the country that come to this show in particular to see my new work. So, I always develop a body of work of new bronzes to bring to show everybody.”

Huggins says one of the main reasons the event is so impactful for local businesses is because it’s hosted here in the Lowcountry.

“The City of Charleston is what makes SEWE so successful,” he said. “If it weren’t for a city like this, we would have never grown through the years. People love to come to Charleston, and we give them a reason to come.”

Organizers say they look forward to many more successful years in the Holy City.