In the soupiness of late July, the air – heavily scented with coconut, diesel fuel, lingering hints of fried chicken, and undertones of regret – carries anticipation with purpose. Something to be experienced rather than explained awaits a socially starved island town.
The past year brought a confining season disrupting the annual exhale. With bated breath, we prepare to move into the freedom of sun, sand, and southern shenanigans.
Cautiously, we peer out of burrows, males waiving their dominant claw while females scatter about at the beckoning of social norms that lower along with the tide. Inhibitions wane and grudges fade, as stress vanishes with each anchor tossed claiming territorial refuge for the day — an oasis of calamity that provides endless fodder, allowing all the childlike of joy living alongside the water. Hold tight to your clothes, beer, and dignity, as best you can, knowing one is sure to fall. Dodge photos with ninja-like precision to avoid becoming Water Fest famous.
A communal equalizer, the sandbar discriminates not on class, rank, or file. Stripped down and unplugged from the divisiveness of everyday titles, we bare all, in some situations figuratively, others quite literally.
The distinction between White Collar and Blue Collar gives way to more necessary comparisons. Can you or can’t you back a boat trailer? Can you or can’t you frolic from stern to bow? Can you or can’t you survive a swift tide with a beer in hand? Are you able to find the boat on which you came? Most importantly, can you do it all without a DNR escort to the palace of poor choices?
There is no room for weakness; it is survival of the fittest in more ways than one. The Olympics of sandbar days, Water Festival is the finale of summer skill, the measure of mayhem management, and the most excellent show of conspicuous, often costly, temporal behavior.
The ability to wander among the herd and emerge unscathed, unvanquished, and reputation intact, is not an easy feat. Many will try, many will fail, and yet many are forgiven. The allowance of indiscretion extended slightly to protect the previously innocent, even if only once.
The sun will eventually set and damage will be assessed. Like bodies scattered after a battle, some have fallen, victimized by circumstance, while others have lived to fight another day. The ill-prepared will fold like Koozies, while the more experienced reign victorious.
Photo evidence will tell stories, and stories will become legends. Harrowing moments of wardrobe malfunction, beer misplacement, and the terrifying expired sunscreen will linger in office chatter for months. Men will boast of avoiding near collisions on boats, while women boast of avoiding men. All will boast evading a snapshot in orange.
Knowing well the dangers, we forge on unmasked, unbridled, and unaware of unidentified floating objects. We join our friends, family, and perfect strangers to bathe in the waters, bake in the sun, and once again bond with one another after a year, distanced from all we know.
May the tide be ever in your favor, photo evidence minimal, and incarceration circumvented. It is one hell of a ride! Happy Water Festival, Beaufort!
Cherimie Crane Weatherford is the owner/founder of SugarBelle, a long-time real estate broker and a lover of the obscurities of southern culture. To contact her with praise and adoration, email CCWIslandNews@gmail.com. To complain, call your local representative.