CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Almost every other week of the year, staff at a four-star hotel would scramble to shoo out a wild bird that managed to make its way inside before too many guests noticed. But for a few days each year, guests at the Charleston Place Hotel mingle with the pelicans and owls joining them in the ballrooms to appreciate paintings of marshes and mossy oaks.

For the past 40 years, the Southeastern Wildlife Expo (SEWE) has brought crowds to Downtown Charleston, with the stated goal of celebrating “the great outdoors through fine art, live entertainment, and special events.”

Fan favorite events, like the DockDogs competition, and presenters, like Jack Hanna, have grown SEWE’s popularity and kept guests of all ages and interests coming back year after year.

In 2007, SEWE expanded to Brittlebank Park and the Charleston Riverview Hotel to accommodate the growing crowds. Now, the days-long event spreads across the Lowcountry, hosting animal shows, art galleries, and events that range from black tie galas to outdoor oyster roasts.

Currently, SEWE brings in around 500 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees each year — a big jump from the original 100 exhibitors and 5,000 guests at the inaugural 1983 event.

Organizers say that SEWE “generates an estimated $50 million economic impact” each year. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit says that in addition to boosting local and statewide economies, the funds help further SEWE’s goals of increasing conservation awareness and wildlife education.