Skiers delight, singer wows at water festival

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comJuly 14, 2012 

The Gatorland Water Ski Show Team has been entertaining at the Beaufort Water Festival for 28 years. Although the current of the Beaufort River makes the water rougher than the Melrose, Fla., lake they're used to practicing on, about 30 skiers, ages 5 to 76, still wowed spectators Saturday with jumps, three-person pyramids and other feats of daring.

At 76, Billy Banks is the oldest and one of the founding members of the team. And he can still please a crowd. Festivalgoers lining the river burst into applause as he rocketed off a jump, did a flip and landed successfully.

After Saturday's show, teammates agreed success depends on two things: more than 5,000 feet of rope and a strong sense of trust among the skiers, many of whom are family members.

"The best thing about it is it's a family thing," 30-year skier and team member Sue Maggeo said.

Hope you didn't miss: A red carnation ceremony performed by paddlers of DragonBoat Beaufort at 4 p.m. The group formed in February to support cancer survivors, those battling the disease and those who have lost loved ones to it. As a history of the dragon boat was read to the crowd, the paddling team took to the Beaufort River to demonstrate the maneuvers they've learned over the past five months. They laid red carnations in the water, and the audience had a moment of silence in honor of victims and survivors.

Better not miss: Coast Guard cutter tours. Tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The tours are free.

Volunteer of the day: Rand Thatcher, 55, works as the production consultant at the festival. Since 1995, he's taken two weeks off work as manager of the GIS Department at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. He's been affectionately dubbed by fellow volunteers as "the voice of the Water Festival" because he announces the events and safety messages each day. "The Water Festival is something we can all do as volunteers to bring the community together ... ," he said.

Socially speaking: "I really wish I were in Beaufort South Carolina right now so I could go to the Water Fest with all my friends!!!! I am sooooo home sick!!!! I miss all of y'all in Beaufort!!!!"

Maddy Harrison, via Facebook.

The competitive edge: In the raft races:

Today's events

  • Children's Day: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Waterfront Park, shows, rides, games and prizes. Free.

  • Festival art and craft market: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Promenade, Waterfront Park

  • Boat bingo: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Local Waters. Entry fee.

  • Coast Guard cutter tours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Waterfront Park. Free.

  • Lowcountry Estuarium: 11 am - 3 p.m., Waterfront Park. Free.

  • Shrimp boat tours: Noon - 4 p.m., Waterfront Park. Free.

  • Gatorland Ski Show: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m., Beaufort River, Waterfront Park. Free.

  • Sailing regatta (continued): 2 p.m., warning for final race in front of Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Clubs. 5 p.m., awards, dinner to follow.

  • Teen Dance: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., Waterfront Park. 6 p.m. - 8 p.m., gates, no entry after 8 p.m., no re-entry. DJ Jeff Taylor, ages 13-17, valid ID required, only clutch purses allowed, no shuttle service. Tickets, $10.
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