On the last evening of the inaugural Chow Chow culinary festival last September, participants gathered at Salvage Station to celebrate the weekend’s inarguable success. Graced with beautiful weather in Pack Square Park, 3,387 local and out-of-town guests took part in the event, visiting the dozens of tasting stations from local and national chefs; sampling from breweries, distilleries and wine bars; and participating in seminars, workshops, cooking demonstrations, and farm and manufacturer visits spotlighting the makers and producers of the region.
“The closing party was pure enjoyment for all of us who worked on it,” chef Katie Button, Chow Chow board of directors president, said the morning after.
The festival generated $135,952 in state and local taxes, $1,210,749 in direct spending and ultimately raised $53,000 for MANNA FoodBank. Planning for Chow Chow 2020 started almost immediately; in November the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority approved a $100,000 contribution to the event (up from $75,000 in 2019) and, in January, the board of directors hired Rebecca Lynch as executive director and Shay Brown as festival director.
But in the wake of COVID-19, with restaurants closed and no timeline yet in place for reopening, with makers and farmers struggling to adapt to market uncertainty and with an unknown potential for future restrictions and regulations regarding social gatherings, the Chow Chow board of directors came to the same conclusion as countless other festivals: Cancel and postpone until 2021.
“It was an extremely tough decision,” Button said in an April 30 press release. “We’re determined to be back better than ever next year, and we think Chow Chow will be a great way to celebrate our reopened doors.”
Chow Chow executive committee member Elizabeth Sims says the programming committee is kicking around ideas for the interim. “We’re discussing a series of dinners and creating an online Chow Chow channel with interviews and demos with chefs, farmer and makers to continue the conversation about our mission,” she says.
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