The 56th annual Beaufort Water Festival kicks off Friday with a schedule packed full of the same tried-and-true events that have long anchored the 10-day celebration.
Commodore Bob Bible said the traditional nightly headline activities return, but he and festival coordinators tweaked some events to improve attendance and safety.
In particular, organizers "made quite a few changes" to the annual Teen Dance, an event for those ages 13 to 17. The future of the festival's Teen Dance appeared uncertain after fights broke out outside the gates at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park as last year's event ended.
Beaufort Police used pepper spray to quell three fights between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
Among other things, the dance will end one hour earlier, at 9 p.m., and organizers will allow only small "clutch purses" inside the gates.
Bible declined to describe the other measures organizers and law enforcement will take, but said "we've intended to make it safer."
Festival-goers might also notice a special theme woven throughout this year's events.
Bible selected "56 Years of Tradition, 300 Years of History" as the festival's theme this year as a nod to Beaufort's recent celebration of the 300th anniversary of its charter.
Local forecasts through the weekend predict relatively low temperatures -- highs of 90 Friday and Saturday and 89 Sunday -- but with a chance of thunderstorms. Bible says there is only so much the organization can do to plan for bad weather and, for the most part, will deal with it as it arises.
"Every commodore will tell you ... the only thing you can really control are your expenses," Bible said. "Everything else you just keep your fingers crossed and pray."
Follow staff writer Juliann Vachon at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.