58th Beaufort Water Festival comes to a close

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comJuly 28, 2013 

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Father Paul MacNiel, left, blesses the Gracie Belle shrimp boat Sunday as the 58th Beaufort Water Festival wrapped up with the Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver Buy Photo

A parade of ships, a sprinkling of holy water, and a little music helped close out the Beaufort Water Festival on Sunday, ending the 58th annual festival with some fanfare.

Twenty-five ships of all sizes participated in the Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats on Sunday afternoon. Some of the ships featured bright decorations, like colored flags, and a few played music in keeping with the festival's "Southern Side of Summer" theme. One of them, the local shrimp boat Gracie Belle, featured large signs with representations of Bible verses.

Ten of the boats were in competition for the judge's choice award and best decorated awards

A few hundred spectators lined the walkways along Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, watching as the Rev. Paul MacNeil blessed each boat as it sailed by and sprinked it with holy water.

Aside from the Parade of Boats, Sunday's final day was mostly low-key. Shoppers trickled in and out of festival's arts and crafts market, which closed down about an hour after the parade ended.

Around the shoppers and the few remaining people in the park, staff began to break down and haul away equipment from the water festival later in the afternoon, a somber reminder of its end.

Hope you didn't miss: Keeping with Sunday's religious theme, a performance by local Christian indie rock group Vessel 221 -- a reference to a passage in the Bible's Book of Timothy -- capped the week's festivities. The group, made up of local residents Chris Hamilton, Marie Hamilton and Todd Terry, released their its album, "Pullin' Me," last month.

Volunteer of the day: The Rev. Paul MacNeil has blessed dozens of boats on the last day of the Beaufort Water Festival over the past two years. Sunday was no different, as MacNeil blessed the 25 boats in the ceremony, joking about their names and sprinkling them with holy water with the help of seminarian and Beaufort native Paul Lacombe.

MacNeil, a priest at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Lady's Island, said he has had "a lot of fun" blessing the ships in the Waterfront Parade.

"Blessing the ships is a nice way to close the event," he said. "It's a time of joy and a time of family here."

It certainly was a time of family for MacNeil: Shortly after finishing the ceremony, he was greeted by two women, one of whom thanked MacNeil for marrying her sister Saturday.

The competitive edge: Of the 10 boats in competition at today's Waterfront Parade, three were named winners: the Gracie Belle, captained by Cameron Reaves, won best decorated commercial boat; the Whistle Britches, captained by Beaufort City Councilman Mike Sutton, won best decorated non-commercial boat; and DragonBoat Braveheart of Beaufort won the judge's choice award.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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