By Molly Ingram, Photos by SK & Assoc.
It was my first Water Festival and first Lowcountry supper on the waterfront. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But what I got was what I have come to expect from my Beaufort neighbors and friends.
First, there was a plan. I was to be in line no later than 5:45 p.m. which, being a good girls scout, I was. Quickly joined by Elizabeth Harding Newberry, co-publisher of The Island News, and Nikki Hardison (our General Manager) and her husband, Bubba, the gang was now assembled. Before we could say “Hey y’all”, a staffer was there to take our tickets and put a very complicated wrist band on us. By the time the line started moving, there was literally no waiting. A lovely lady at the very front of the food line asked politely, “Do you just love shrimp?” to which I gave an affirmative and a huge pile of gorgeous shrimp appeared on my plate. Yummy sausage, corn, cole slaw, a roll and watermelon followed in quick succession.
And off we trundled to find a spot to enjoy this feast. Amazingly to me, finding a great place to sit wasn’t that hard. Clearly people who have done this before know exactly where they want to sit and there were seats arranged artfully for the family to assemble. And as soon as we had our spot, two of the team headed off to secure some cocktails to go with our lovely supper.
Finally seated, and thirst quenched, Elizabeth asked me if I know how to peal the shrimp. “No, not really,” I said. I figured I would just bulldoze my way through it. How hard could it be? She says, “Well, first you put your thumb here, and kind of wiggle the tail.” “Then you put your fingernail through the center part and pop the shrimp from his shell.” Piece of cake. By golly, I’ve got it! Did it taste better than any other shrimp I’ve ever had? Maybe. It was darn good which could have been a function of the master chef’s they had working in the kitchen or the ambiance of sitting by the water while listening to Marjory Lee perform, or maybe it was the company. It doesn’t really matter. What I saw all around me were friends and families talking, laughing, and enjoying the evening. That seems to be the underlying formula for a successful Water Festival. Have fun with your friends. Bed races down the main street? Dragon boats from a different century flying across the water? Outstanding performers during the evening? Local craftsmen offering so many wonderful things to take home? All these things come together every day to make the Water Festival the special summer event that it is. If you missed it this year, put it on the calendar for next year because I am convinced that this needs to be a yearly “must do” for all of us. They could call it “Shrimp for the Soul” because that is exactly what it feeds.