Places to sit or stand Friday night in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park were almost as scarce as empty parking spots in downtown Beaufort as thousands celebrated the return of a much-beloved local tradition.
The park was packed for the opening night of the 57th annual Beaufort Water Festival, an event that featured remarks from local dignitaries, a performance by the Parris Island Marine Band and a fireworks display over the Beaufort River.
A gentle breeze blew Friday as festivalgoers jockeyed for the best place on which to plant folding chairs and blankets to take in the night's festivities.
The cool weather was welcomed by many, especially after more than a week of triple-digit temperatures and stifling humidity.
"It's like Mother Nature knew how miserable we would all be if it was 100 degrees," said Darla Caplan of Beaufort. "I can't say I would have been all that excited to come out here and bake in the sun. I might not have come if it was as hot as it has been lately."
The 10-day festival continues today with a full slate of events that includes an evening concert in the park featuring country music artist James Otto.
Hope you didn't miss: A flyover by the Werewolves of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122.
In a tight diamond formation, three pilots flew their F-18 Hornets low over Waterfront Park to the delight of festivalgoers, many of whom lifted their cell phones and digital cameras to capture the moment.
The roar of the fighter engines temporarily drowned out the singing of the National Anthem but the crowd didn't seem to mind, loudly cheering as the jets soared overhead.
Better not miss: Country music artist James Otto.
Waterfront Park will be packed tonight with country music fans as Nashville, Tenn., singer James Otto helps celebrate the start of the Water Festival with a concert.
The festival's annual Concert in the Park is from 8 to 11:30 p.m., according to organizers.
Volunteer of the day: Alan Langford, Productions Coordinator.
If it's happening on stage at the Water Festival, Langford likely made it happen.
As productions coordinator, Langford, a patrol supervisor for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, books the bands and oversees all aspects of the festival's nightly entertainment.
Langford has been volunteering with the festival for the last eight years, he said.
Socially speaking: "As we get ready to kick off the 57th Water Festival, can't help but think Keith Cummins is watching over us all from above and is very proud of his friend, John Gentry, for putting on the best Water Festival Ever! Wonderful article about Keith and the Water Festival family in (Friday's) Gazette. Check it out and have a Richard Norris tissue ready when you do!" -- former commodore Erin Dean, via Facebook.