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The bed racing team from Beaufort Nursing and Rehab is soaked as they run the course during the 66th annual Beaufort Water Festival Friday, July 22 in Beaufort. Local band Killin’ Quaid turned in a strong evening performance, but storms caused the cancelation of headliner Hardwired, a Metallica tribute band. Photos by Tony Kukulich

Beaufort Water Festival comes to a close 

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 By any measure, the 66th annual Beaufort Water Festival was a solid success. 

“The community really supported the festival,” said Shawna Doran, who helmed the event as this year’s commodore. “They came out and enjoyed it. I think all of our nights went really well. I was very pleased.” 

The 10-day event kicked off Friday night, July 15 with an evening that featured a flyover by aircraft stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort; a fireworks display and concerts by three different Marine Corps bands.

A broad range of events started Saturday morning and continued throughout the week including: bocce ball and badminton tournaments; raft races; bed races; a Lowcountry supper; Children’s Day; a talent show; an air show; a parade; a water ski show and many live music performances.

The festival benefitted from mostly favorable weather conditions. There was plenty of rain over the 10-day span, but only one event, the performance of the Metallica tribute band Hardwired, was canceled due to rain. While the Lowcountry is certainly capable of producing very hot days and nights in mid-July, temperatures were mostly reasonable with highs ranging from the mid-80s to low-90s.

“For the most part, the weather blessed us this week,” Doran said. “We were fortunate to have relatively good weather.”

Mother nature didn’t present many issues for the festival, and neither did human nature. Large crowds, hot weather and alcohol can sometimes be a recipe for problems. With a few minor exceptions, that wasn’t the case.

“This year’s water festival was relatively uneventful from a police perspective,” Beaufort Police Chief Dale McDorman said. “Many events appeared to have very large crowds, and there were very few incidents requiring police intervention.”

One change that was noticeable this year was the transition to electronic tickets. Doran said the change came with the recognition that many people have gotten familiar with the use of electronic tickets for school events like sporting events and plays.

“We transitioned well,” she stated. “We didn’t have any hiccups or anything. It was nice to have that as opposed to having tons of paper tickets that we had to hold. The majority did do online sales.”

Festival officials are still counting the number of attendees. That number is expected to be available later this week.

During Saturday’s Commodore’s Ball, Doran announced that James Nutt had been named the commodore of the 67th annual Beaufort Water Festival. After the announcement, Nutt and his fiancé Allison Kindwall danced to music provided by the band Chairmen of the Board.

Asked if Doran had any advice for Nutt, she said, “Don’t blink because it goes quick. That 10 days of festival starts, and before you know it, it’s over.”

According to Doran, planning for the water festival takes about 11 months. That gives Nutt about a month before he needs to start getting the machine cranked up again.

The festival closed Sunday afternoon with the traditional Blessing of the Fleet performed by Monsignor Ronald Cellini, followed by the Boat Parade. Four shrimp boats were among the dozen or so boats that participated in the event.

“The City is grateful to the Beaufort Water Festival organization, the hundreds of volunteers, first responders, and sponsors who made the 66th celebration a resounding success,” said Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray. “Celebrating our natural resources, each other, and this remarkable place we call home is important and the Beaufort Water Festival provides the perfect outlet for this celebration.”

SCENES FROM WATER FESTIVAL 2022 – Photos by Tony Kukulich

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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