Bob Sofaly photo After the concert by the Parris Island Marine Band during the Water Festival’s opening ceremony, the huge crowd was treated to a spectacular fireworks show Friday night at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

Water Festival’s opening weekend a success


  Above: After the concert by the Parris Island Marine Corps Band during the Water Festival Opening Ceremony, the huge crowd was treated to a spectacular fireworks show Friday night at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Photo by Bob Sofaly. 

By Bob Sofaly 

After being canceled last year due to COVID concerns, the 65th annual Beaufort Water Festival finally kicked off Friday with as much fanfare as the Parris Island Marine Corps Band could muster. 

And the crowds? The attendance during the “first weekend” has been above and beyond comparison even though organizers had only 109 days instead of the traditional 10 months to get ready. 

The Color Guard from Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot posts the Colors during the playing of the National Anthem to officially open the 65th Water Festival on Friday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

“Opening ceremony Monday was kind of surreal while sitting on the stage and seeing the huge crowd out there,” Water Festival Commodore Erin “Tank” Morris said. “I think the public was ready to come back. We are happy that we are the ones to kick it back off and bring everybody back together.” 

On Saturday the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park came to life again with the much anticipated Bocce Ball single elimination tournament, a badminton tournament and the grueling boat races in the Beaufort River. 

The evening capped off with the Concert in the Park, featuring opening act Scott Stevens, then Lainey Wilson and finally the headline performer, country singer Rodney Atkins. 

“That was three of the best shows I’ve ever seen here,” Morris said. “They were so engaged, it was absolutely electric. And the crowd? Oh my gosh they were into it! My wife and I stood right here (by the stage) and could see the crowd. That’s why we do this.” 

As large as the crowd for the Opening Ceremony was, Morris said Sunday’s Children’s Day was beyond that. 

Eight-year-old Ware Pearson is all grins as she gets the Hoolahoop swinging at the conclusion of the annual Water Festival Children’s Day on Sunday.

“This crowd is phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like this. People are just ready to get out and get back to life”, he said. “It was shoulder-to -shoulder for as far as the eye could see from one to the other along the sea wall at the waterfront park.” 

Morris said he didn’t have any exact numbers to share, but he said Saturday’s concert was “probably the biggest concert in the (Waterfront Park) we’ve had in many, many years.”

Morris added the line to get into the park extended back to the Downtown Marina and wrapped back around. 

He added the weather is playing a big part in this year’s early success, as well.

“You can’t beat this. It’s Beaufort weather. It’s a little warm and the humidity is high,” Morris said. “But this IS Beaufort, it’s supposed to be like this. There has been cool breeze off the Beaufort River and it’s been cloudy and it hasn’t rained.”

To help combat the heat, outgoing City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf and some of his firefighters were on hand giving out free cups of ice-cold water for any and all who needed it.

Bob Sofaly photo Part of the huge crowd that attended the Water Festival Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 16, at Henry C Chambers Waterfront Park.

According to Morris, the success of the first weekend boils down to the participation of the Beaufort community.

“We as a festival thank the community for getting back out and enjoying this,” he said. “Standing here last night and seeing the crowd so engaged in the show and watching how much fun everyone was having gave me goose bumps.”

More photos from opening weekend of Water Festival…

The seawall was packed with kids trying the catch big one, while adults were kept busy uncrossing their lines during the Water Festival’s Toad Fishing tournament Saturday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

State Rep. Shannon Erickson (R-District 124) presents a South Carolina State Flag to Water Festival Commodore Erin Morris during the annual Water Festival Opening Ceremony
Skiers with the Gatorland Ski Show form a pyramid as they cruise in front of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge during the annual Water Festival Ski Show on Sunday afternoon.
The Gatorland Ski Show had to manage the tidal current, choppy water and a brisk breeze as they maneuvered through the Beaufort River during the Sunday’s Water Festival Ski Show

A pair of youngsters make their way through one of the inflatable obstacle courses during the annual Water Festival Children’s Day Sunday
Heat and humidity didn’t dampen anyone spirits, as hundreds of children made their way to annual Water Festival Children’s Day on Sunday. Here, a young lad just clears the oncoming bar and manages to leap over.

Bob Sofaly has been photographing people and what they do in Beaufort for 41 years – since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.

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Lewis V. Adams February 29, 1948 – December 28, 2022 United States Marine Corps Lewis V. Adams passed away