Water Festival a financial "shot in the arm" for businesses

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 23, 2012 

With Beaufort's annual 10-day party wrapped up as of Sunday, downtown merchants and organizations are reporting mixed economic impact but overall success.

The 57th Beaufort Water Festival, which kicked off July 13, featured nightly concerts and events, a craft fair, contests and two weekends of parades, entertainment and games.

Festival attendance numbers were not available Monday, but the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, capacity 3,500, appeared full during several events, such as Motown Monday, Talent Show, River Dance and Concert in the Park with James Otto.

Prior to the festival's start, spokeswoman Stacey Canaday said organizers hoped to attract 50,000 people during the 10-day period.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Visitors Center traffic was a little below average for Water Festival, according to tourism division executive Robb Wells.

The center sold more Water Festival T-shirts than in past years and sold out its share of tickets to events such as the Lowcountry Supper, he said. Visitor numbers will be available later this week.

Anecdotal feedback from businesses, however, indicate a slower year in terms of sales, and Wells said he had not yet spoken with any business owner who experienced record sales.

The festival certainly brought people downtown, said Charlie Williams, owner of The Craftseller and chair of the Main Street Beaufort, USA merchant committee, but that didn't necessarily translate into sales. His store was packed on Sunday, but it only had one small sale.

"We're making sales, but they just typically aren't as big." he said of his and other businesses. "I'd be surprised if many people didn't feel that way. The economy is still in kind of a recession mode. People are spending, but I think they're being a little more cautious about spending."

Bob Barnes, manager of the Holiday Inn in Beaufort, said that, in keeping with last year, the hotel was full during final weekend of the festival.

Chip Dinkens, owner of Plum's Restaurant and Saltus River Grill and Main Street Beaufort board of directors chairman, said he believes his restaurants and others did well, calling the festival a "huge shot in the arm" for businesses and especially restaurants.

"I think its a great thing, and regardless of how it ends and if its up or down year-to-year, it's a lot better having it than not having it," he said.

Dinkens said there have been a number of restaurant openings in the Beaufort area during the past six months, so that might have affected individual businesses' sales.

"Restaurant business might be slightly down from last year's Water Festival, but that might not have anything to do at all with the festival and more to do with competition," he said.

Related content

  1. Water Festival's Grand Parade douses crowds with delight, July 21, 2012
  2. Hundreds turn up for River Dance as Water Festival winds down, July 20, 2012
  3. Beaufort Water Festival welcomes local performers at Talent Show, July 18, 2012

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