Preparations underway for Lt. Dan Band Concert's debut in Charleston

emoody@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 13, 2013 

It's quieter in Beaufort this week than it usually is at this time last year.

There's no flurry of activity in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and few conspicuous embraces between a military community and those damaged by combat.

The Lt. Dan Weekend will be held for a fourth consecutive year, but for the first time, it won't be based in Beaufort.

Most of the events associated with the weekend, including the signature Lt. Dan Band Concert led by actor-musician Gary Sinise, have shifted to Charleston. Independence Fund founder and Lt. Dan Weekend organizer Steve Danyluk said plans are going well for the event's first weekend at The Citadel. More than 4,000 advance tickets have been sold, and he expects about 12,000 people to attend the concert today in Johnson Hagood Stadium, if the weather cooperates.

Danyluk said those numbers help solidify his conviction that moving to Charleston would raise the profile of the events. Last year, about 4,200 tickets were sold for the concert in Beaufort's Waterfront Park.

"It's just the right thing to do," he said. "We're bringing more veterans, and we're reaching more people and getting more attention."

In August, Danyluk had considered canceling the Charleston concert because of lagging ticket sales, but the sales improved, he said. "Things are taking a turn in the right direction."

The Charleston events also include a 5K bike ride today through The Citadel campus.

About 200 veterans are expected to come for the concert, Danyluk said. About 80 of those wounded warriors and their caregivers are staying all week and participating in activities at the Palm Key Independence Center near Ridgeland.

Some Beaufort residents who were deeply involved with the Lt. Dan Weekend were still disappointed the events were moved.

"It meant an awful lot to me and a lot of people who helped," said City Councilwoman Donnie Beer, a former volunteer. "True, we didn't have a big stadium, but it was something to see 4,000 people stand and cheer for the veterans in the park."

The economic effect on Beaufort of the weekend's departure will be difficult to gauge, according to Robb Wells, tourism division director with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. He said he did not have complete statistics for last year's events.

However, most festivals and events that draw people from out of town, as the Lt. Dan Weekend did, tend to be a boon, so it figures the event's departure will hurt at least a little, he said.

Area hotels reported mixed results on bookings, one indicator of how events contribute to the economy. City Loft Hotel owner Matt McAlhaney said bookings are definitely slower this year.

At Quality Inn Beaufort, occupancy rates were down 13 to 15 percent on Friday but up about 3 percent on Saturday, as compared to the concert weekend last year.

Philip Carroway, director of sales for Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Beaufort, said occupancy rates are up 15 percent for the weekend compared with last year. He said chamber marketing efforts and the national publicity Beaufort has received recently has contributed to sales growth.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

Related content:

  1. Lt. Dan Concert leader: Ticket sales needed to avoid cancellation, Aug. 8, 2013
  2. Lt. Dan Band concert moved from Beaufort to Charleston, to some dismay, April 12, 2013
  3. Actor Sinise, thousands rally for injured vets, Sept. 15, 2012

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