Organizers, community officials report successful 58th Annual Water Festival

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 30, 2013 

Attendance numbers and ticket sales haven't yet been tallied, but organizers, police and community officials say the 58th Annual Beaufort Water Festival was a success.

"I've received absolutely nothing but positive feedback," festival commodore Dan Thompson said. "I've been stopped by lots of people who I've never even met before saying they were having a great time and enjoying themselves."

A survey shows that the 10-day festival that ended Sunday attracted a mix of locals and visitors -- and kept them spending money.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and the University of South Carolina Beaufort surveyed about 300 festival-goers to collect information about their spending habits, length of stay and reasons for coming.

Preliminary results from the first such survey of the event suggest the festival is "definitely an economic driver," said Robb Wells, director of the chamber's tourism division.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said they attended the Water Festival for the first time; 27 percent said they come every year.

The festival was the main reason that 20 percent of people came to Beaufort that week, and 42 percent said the festival influenced their decision to visit. The surveys were done with an iPad at Waterfront Park.

Fifty-four percent said they decided to stay longer in the area because of the festival.

Festival spokeswoman Stacey Canaday said the festival ran smoothly, thanks to nearly 500 volunteers.

"We have these wonderful friends of the festival who we can call, and they're willing to say 'Yep, we'll be there,' " she said.

She could recall only one snafu: A steam leak made it impossible to cook the entire Lowcountry supper at Naval Hospital Beaufort as planned. Instead, Sea Eagle Market and Dangerfield Catering prepared the food at the Henry C. Chambers Watefront Park, where it was served. Although the supper is normally chilled for transportation, it was served hot this year. Canaday said that practice might continue next year.

The Beaufort Police Department reported 11 arrests during the festival, including three for disorderly conduct, three from a fight and one for underage-drinking.

"That is a relatively uneventful festival," Deputy Chief Dale McDorman said. "For us, it was a successful festival. It's nice when we don't have to arrest people."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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