The Beaufort Water Festival is a family tradition for fifth-generation Port Royal resident Brandy Gray.
Not only is the 59th festival commodore following in her great-uncle and 3rd Commodore Sammy Gray's footsteps, but she's also brought her husband, Mickey, and 6-year-old daughter, Emma, with her.
"This will be her first year going to all the night events," Gray, 41, said, adding that last year her daughter would come for the afternoons, spend some time in the trailer for volunteers, and Mickey would take her home at night.
This year, the family will don the traditional red-and-white outfits and celebrate together throughout the 10-day festival that starts July 19 and runs through July 27.
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Gray, sales manager for Holiday Inn Express in Bluffton, started volunteering as a teenager and performed as a Pirette in 1989 and 1990. She got a taste of the behind the scenes by helping with the day-to-day operations.
She started taking on leadership roles in 2000, as the bed race chairwoman, and worked her way up through the ranks.
Mickey, who is from Hampton, said he married into the Water Festival and didn't know exactly what he was getting into. The two met in 1995 playing coed softball and married in 1998.
He retired from the S.C. Highway Department in the mid-2000s, and has been the primary caretaker of Emma. Gray said she's grateful for his support, not only in physically helping with Water Festival each year, but also for taking care of their daughter, who turns 7 next month, during the long hours she is at Water Festival meetings and events.
"Nobody can do this alone," Gray said.
"If your spouse isn't into it, you can't make it," Mickey agreed.
With that in mind, Gray is cognizant of the pressures other volunteers with young children face, as her coordinator staff alone has nine children younger than 12 years old.
"We're extremely grateful that the spouses allow their spouses to volunteer as well," she said. "We know it's not easy supporting them."
Between long days of festival, late nights of events and early mornings cleaning up and preparing for the new day, she's grateful for the commitment all the volunteers make year after year.
"We're passionate about the city and everything about this community," she said. "We've been part of the fabric of (Beaufort) for 59 years now."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.