My wife and I moved to Beaufort in 2006 so I could be the features editor of The Beaufort Gazette. Doing the math, it doesn't seem that long ago, but it feels longer than five years.
I haven't been the features editor of the Gazette for 2<2009>1/2 years now, but the paper was nice enough to let me continue to write this column. Now I am moving to Charlotte for a new adventure, which means this one is coming to a close. Shhh. No tears.
My first column was an introduction -- I think I wrote about how much I liked animals -- and now I am here at my last column, having exhausted all premises and points, not sure how to wrap it all up.
But, you're saying to yourself, "This just can't be! You are an award-winning columnist. Surely you have an ending for all of this. There has to be a point that we've been building toward." Hmmm.
One of the first stories I covered for the Gazette was about the Beaufort International Film Festival. It was in Year Zero and so was I, so it felt like a good way to get started in the comy. I met with Ron Tucker, the festival's director, and a few others at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. We discussed how the film festival was, hopefully, a beacon for future filmmakers to return to the area.
Well, it's been five years, and so far, there haven't been any new films made in Beaufort. (Although we have seen a lot of Gary Sinise ... but he brings his guitar, not a shooting script.) That doesn't mean the festival has been a failure. Heading into its sixth year, the festival has transformed into something else completely.
It's no longer a chamber product and now is run by the nonprofit Beaufort Film Society (still led by Tucker).
Last year, it actually broke even, an amazing feat if you saw the sometimes sparse crowds that were present that first year.
Also, when the festival returns Feb. 15-19, it will be at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, a venue capable of seating 400 people and creating a much more desirable film-going experience.
Ten years from now? Who knows? What started off as a small fest with big ambitions is now, well, still a small festival but with realistic-sized ambition, run by smart people who have a good shot at turning it into something else. But it's still here, five years later, through some of the toughest economic times we've ever faced. That's an accomplishment worthy of praise and open-jawed amazement.
I could draw a straight line between the growth and seemingly rosy outlook of the film festival -- through good leadership, loyalty, persistence and vision -- and Beaufort as a whole, downtown, the USA and planet Earth, but you are much too smart to need me to be so obvious.
And, this being my last column, I promised myself no summations.
I have enjoyed my time in the Lowcountry and will miss it almost completely (except for the bugs and most of the weather, which I hate). If you ever move, try to get a job as the features editor for the local newspaper, because it is the easiest way to assimilate. Usually when you move somewhere new, it takes you a while to get involved in the community. But when you run the features department, you are involved from day one. No heavy lifting.
It's civic responsibility's version of diving into the deep end.
I will miss our home in Habersham. I will miss the Highway 21 Drive In. I will miss downtown. And I will miss all of you. Beaufort is a unique place full of interesting people and a diverse collection of concerned citizens -- especially when it comes to parking.
Yes, we have our disagreements and squabbles, but it's better than living in a place where people sleepwalk through their community involvement. It's our passion that gives us success stories such as the Beaufort International Film Festival.
It's our -- your -- passion that will shepherd this community forward through the unknown abyss of the future.
Have fun. Be kind to one another. And enjoy the sunsets.