Fast-track career

Four months ago, Summer Swindle didn’t know a Bugatti from a Bentley or a Maybach from a McLaren.

Now she’s managing events that draw more than 20,000 car enthusiasts to see some of the world’s most exotic automobiles. The May 2014 graduate landed a job last fall as director of operations for Festivals of Speed, an Orlando, Fla.-based company that is the purveyor of all things fast.

“The president of the company interviewed me and decided to give me a chance,” said Swindle, a native of Valdosta, Ga., who chose the University of South Carolina specifically for its degree offerings in hospitality, retail and tourism management. “The HRTM program at Carolina was great for getting hands-on experience and preparing me for real life.”

At Festivals of Speed, Swindle helps organize four or five festivals in the winter and spring in Miami, St. Petersburg, Amelia Island and Orlando. The idea is to attract car enthusiasts and collectors of automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft, yachts and luxury products for a weekend of camaraderie. Watch out when the Batmobile is part of the exhibition.

“Kids go nuts over that,” Swindle says. “A lot of families come to these events, and we also get people who are seriously interested in owning high-end vehicles. The sponsors get to show off their product to everyone and build their client lists.”

Swindle handles marketing and media; solicits potential sponsors; collaborates with resorts and hotels where the events are held; manages interns, volunteers and staff; designs merchandise and more. The event planning and wedding planning courses she took in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management gave her an early taste of what she’s doing now.

“My parents weren’t sure what my degree program was about at first. They joked to their friends that I was studying to be a ‘professional partier,’ ” Swindle said. “They changed their tune when they realized how rigorous the HRTM program is, and when they attended the first event I managed in Florida, they said, ‘Now that’s what we paid for!’ — meaning my tuition.”

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