The sun peeked out from behind the clouds and illuminated the crowd of thousands of people with their hands over their hearts listening to the National Anthem as the 59th Annual Beaufort Water Festival began Friday in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
It was an emotional start.
Along with celebrating the festival -- which state Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, announced is now the longest running, volunteer-run festival in South Carolina -- officials remembered past years and past commodores.
Dan Thompson, 58th commodore, choked up as he read tributes to three of those leaders who died in the last year.
Never miss a local story.
They are third Commodore Sammy Gray, ninth Commodore Ray Kearns, and 57th Commodore John Gentry.
"John was a very inquisitive person," Thompson said. "He'd walk right up to someone and ask them 'what the deal' was. I can tell you what the deal was with these three gentlemen. They were all about giving back to the community."
Gray is the great-uncle of 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, who said although the festival is bittersweet for her, it is going to be "the best festival ever for all ages to enjoy."
The Parris Island Marine Corps Band provided opening night entertainment ranging from patriotic tunes to big band to jazz to a barbershop quartet song about peanut butter and jelly.
Fireworks followed at dusk over the Beaufort River.
Volunteer of the day: Meg Langford
Meg Langford, 16, has an ambitious goal: she needs to volunteer 200 hours to earn graduation honor cords for the five clubs the rising junior is part of at Battery Creek High School.
Her ambitious volunteer schedule for the Beaufort Water Festival is giving her a solid start. Langford said Friday she's probably up to 50 hours so far, and she will be at park all festival long.
" I love it a lot," she said. "It's a lot of hard work, and there's days when I don't want anything to do with it, but then I remember it's for the community."
Langford has been volunteering for Water Festival since she was 11 and her dad, Alan, would bring her downtown at 5 a.m. to pick up trash left over from the night before. Along with Pirette duties throughout the week -- which take priority -- she is also helping with set up and production, T-shirt sales and other on committees and on other roles. It's unusual for a Pirette to be on productions, she said.
"One day I hope to be just like Brandy Gray and to be a pirette turned commodore," Langford said.
So the best part of summer in Beaufort starts today #waterfestâ€" Dashae Middleton (@dash_272) July 18, 2014Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.