Every President’s Day weekend since the inaugural event in 1983, a congregation of the sporting faithful has amassed in Charleston for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. They flood this historic Southern city to bear witness to the muster of artists, artisans, outfitters, and experts all dedicated to spreading the gospel of the sporting life. The annual trip, 33-years running for some, is akin to a pilgrimage.
Now, one could write a lofty and pithy sermon about the comparison to the faithful and the Hajj, or the comparison to the annual migration of waterfowl along the flyways. And the quality of the vendors, soirees, and events are worthy of such a written performance. SEWE is a collection of well-sewn waxed cotton and tweed. Abundant with hats rimmed with the iridescent coloring of pheasant feathers. Hallmarks of an event, which to some, is the highlight of their year and certainly the highlight of this author’s.
As a proprietor of a sporting-oriented company, we display our goods, chat and mingle with new folks just like the other vendors who fill the myriad of venues ranging from edge to edge of the city’s borders. From the black-tie galas to the oyster roasts, there is no shortage of opportunity for long-time friends to reconvene in one of the South’s most apt settings. But the air of the event is more than just the interaction of purveyor and consumer; it’s an opportunity for the senses. It’s the materialization of a passion for a community of hobbyists and professionals who hold for a lifestyle that has taught me and others countless lessons.
In a Field of Dreams-esque trance, you find yourself wandering from location to location, admiring the sights and sounds, taking the opportunity to absorb every piece of cognitive input the Exposition has to offer. During your travels throughout the venues, the touch of the crisp air of a February afternoon is cut by the throngs of other patrons all moving in a pattern which could only be compared to that of a school of feeding game fish. Your visual sense is thrown into overload by the endless displays of wildlife art curated by some of the country’s most talented hands. You’re intrigued and amazed by the athletic prowess of the four-legged companions during their coordinated display. And in a combination of wonderment and satisfaction, the day comes to a close with the senses satisfied and at the same time eager for another dose next year.