Additional adult supervision and an earlier kickoff didn't stop hundreds of teens from descending on Beaufort's Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to dance, munch on snacks and see classmates Sunday night during the 56th annual Beaufort Water Festival's Teen Dance.
Changes made to the dance after fights broke out following last year's event might have helped contribute the event's success after no serious incidents involving attendees had been reported to Beaufort Police on Sunday night, department spokesman Lt. Doug Kadas said.
On Sunday, Kadas said police and event organizers opted to increase the number of officers assigned to monitor the dance and surrounding streets to 15 from about 10 after police were forced to use pepper spray to quell three fights outside the gates of the park after last year's dance. Beaufort County School District School Resource officers also supervised the dance, he said.
"They were here to help us identify kids, which was a way to stop incidents before they happened," Kadas said. "The festival supported it, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office supported us and we thought it was the best plan."
Never miss a local story.
This year's event also ran from 6 to 9 p.m., rather than 7 to 10 p.m., as in the past, and once teens were admitted, if they opted to leave early they could not re-enter the event, said Bill Damude, a festival spokesman and history teacher at Beaufort High School.
Damude said organizers estimated between 1,200 and 1,500 teens attended the dance, which is open to those between 13 and 17 years of age. The Technical College of the Lowcountry sponsored the event, which has been held for more than 10 years, he said.
"We wanted to take whatever precautions we could because we want to continue holding the event," Damude said. "DJ Ross Brown is great -- he gets them all involved. And it brings kids who haven't seen each other since school got out. We just want everyone to be safe."
Beaufort High School rising senior Rob Dennis, 17, agreed.
Dennis said the dance brought kids from all over the county together and had a "good atmosphere."
"I think it's great because it allows kids from different schools to get together," he said. "There are other events teens go to, but nothing that's just for teens like this."
The third of the 10-day event also included boat bingo, Coast Guard cutter tours, a Gatorland Ski Show and Children's Day, featuring rides and games throughout the park.