Highlands is a hidden gem located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Known for its natural beauty, stunning estates, and world-class restaurants, Highlands, NC has always been a retreat for drive markets of Atlanta, Greenville, Charleston, Birmingham, and Northern Florida.
Historically a seasonal resort, the town of Highlands traditionally experienced a sharp drop-off in tourism in October. The Highlands Chamber of Commerce had created a Culinary Weekend in 2006, an event designed to extend the shoulder season into November for hotels, restaurants, and retail stakeholders.
After nine years, however, Culinary Weekend was not growing or attracting new visitors to Highlands. The Highlands Chamber wanted an event partner that could breathe new life into an otherwise stagnant weekend.
- To revamp Culinary Weekend so that it attracted destination visitors and regional/national PR for Highlands, NC.
- To create an event that showcases local talent and treasures, while also incorporating nationally known chefs and musicians to increase the event buzz.
- To create an economic and environmentally sustainable festival that would both give back to and protect the community.
- To create a unique festival experience that differentiates itself from other Food & Wine festivals.
"The Highlands Chamber wanted an event partner that could breathe new life into shoulder-season weekend, creating a multi-day event that would stimulate the local economy and provide a year-round marketing initiative for Highlands. We wanted to showcase local culinary talent, while also incorporating nationally known chefs, winemakers, and musicians. Casey Reid"
In 7 years, Highlands Food & Wine now attracts visitors from almost every state and international fans, as well.
- Eleven Events capitalized on the 10th anniversary of Culinary Weekend by creating Highlands Food & Wine, a 4-day event that attracted destination visitors (heads in beds) by featuring the best in food, beverage, and live music.
- Eleven Events oversaw every detail, from the creative concept to marketing/PR, production, and operations.
- Eleven Events engaged local stakeholders in both the hospitality and retail industry by creating and scheduling events that encourage and drive business to local establishments.
- James Beard Award-winning chefs, international winemakers, internationally renowned brands, and Grammy Award-winning artists like Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dawes, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Robert Earle Keen are up close and personal in this intimate, VIP festival.
- Eleven Events helped initiate giving back to the local community including partnerships and events designed to fundraise.
By the third year, Highlands Food & Wine had become a regional phenomenon. Since 2018, the festival is a complete sell-out, with the 2022 festival selling out in minutes, six months prior.
The festival has attracted visitors from almost every state in the US and boasts a demographic that enjoys $350K+ annual household income. Retail locations in Highlands, NC report huge jumps in sales during the festival, rivaling the numbers produced by the July 4th crowd, historically the biggest.
By 2019, hotel and lodging partners were at 100% capacity for the following year as guests re-book their stay for the following year before they leave.
Highlands Food & Wine continues to demonstrate its effectiveness in promoting the Town of Highlands as a year-round destination, with millions of dollars’ worth of earned editorial with regional and national media.