In honor of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition’s 40th anniversary, here are a few tidbits, facts and figures about the ever-popular Charleston event.
When founded in February of 1983, SEWE took place with 100 exhibitors, attracting some 5,000 attendees. Now the exposition boasts more than 40,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors from around the country.
An economic booster
Since its formation, SEWE has totalled an economic impact of more than $1 billion.
In 1996, the organization behind SEWE became a nonprofit and has remained one ever since.
Jack Hanna, eminent American zookeeper and former director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, was first featured at SEWE in 2004. He has returned several times in the years since.
Highs and lows
Because of its late winter timing, the weather around SEWE weekend always varies. The temperature has been as high as the 80s. On one occasion, a near-hurricane threatened to delay the event, and on another there was enough snow accumulation on the outdoor tents that organizers feared they might collapse.
Consistency is key
Despite the occasional weather-related hurtle over the years, 2021 remains the only year since its advent SEWE has not held an in-person event.
What’s in a date
SEWE is always held the weekend preceding Presidents’ Day in February. It is often thought the event is held on the second weekend of the month (Valentine’s Day weekend).
The more things change
While the company names are different than they were back when the event was in its infancy, Wells Fargo and Dominion Energy were the first two sponsors of SEWE and have remained backers every year since.
A regular zoo
Although dogs and birds may be the species typically associated with SEWE, the event has seen “an untold number of species” come to downtown Charleston over the years, according to executive director John Powell. That list includes tigers, bears, monkeys, camels, sloths and penguins, among others.
Due to its proximity to the coast and surrounding natural lands, urban Charleston has its fair share of wildlife. On more than one occasion during SEWE weekend, individuals have spotted wild foxes or raccoons and called organizers to inform them that their animals were on the loose.