On a rooftop overlooking Bay Street Saturday afternoon, several rows of people stood and cheered as their husband, father and friend straightened his Navy blue lapel and became the 60th Commodore of the Beaufort Water Festival.
Bill Damude received his official blazer from 1966 Commodore Colden Battey at the annual Change of the Watch ceremony above the Old Bay Marketplace.
Later that evening, Damude said the source of those cheers -- friends and family including Marcia Damude, his wife of more than 30 years -- have been his strongest asset in preparing for his new role with the festival.
"You're not going to be here long if you don't have the support of your family," said Damude.
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Though he has volunteered with the festival for a decade, Damude said he will approach next year's event by drawing on his 31 years of experience teaching at Beaufort High School, and 26 years coaching the wrestling team.
Mainly, that means trusting his team, Damude said.
"You have to be able to rely on people to do their work, and give them the leeway to do it," he said, adding that most people dedicate time to the festival while holding down full-time jobs. "We're very fortunate as a community for our volunteers."
Damude was unanimously elected Saturday morning, said 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, who took driving lessons from Damude years ago. Over the past 10 years of volunteering together, Gray said she has come to know Damude as a compassionate, dedicated leader.
"He's someone who always gets the job done, no matter how big or small it is," Gray said. "He's the right person."
Hope You Didn't Miss
Thirty-six teams of DragonBoat racers slicing through the Beaufort River from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The race was followed by the Carnation Ceremony for cancer survivors and their families. The Fire Breathers of Charleston won first place in the fastest division. Organized Chaos of Charleston took second place, and HairForce One of Lime Lite Salon in Beaufort came in third. Team Rock On of Charleston won first place in the Cancer Survivor Division.
Better Not Miss
The array of embellishments covering the boats parading down the Beaufort River in front of the Waterfront Park on Sunday. The parade and Blessing of the Fleet, which begin at noon and close out the festival at 2 p.m., is sponsored by past commodores.
Decorated boats are eligible for several prizes, and registration is free. All applications must be at the judges table before noon.
Volunteer of the day: Bernie Amaya
As DragonBoats raced across the water Saturday, Bernie Amaya looked on from the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park with satisfaction.
Volunteering for the 13th year, the water and air director had spent the morning setting up tents, adjusting sound systems and finishing off other details ahead of the race, one of the last major events of the festival.
Earlier in the week, he'd helped place buoys in the water to mark the finish line. But for a short time Saturday, as the teams took off, there was nothing to do but enjoy.
"It gives you a sense of pride knowing you've got 600 people out there, they're all happy, they're all racing, and they've got their heart and soul in it," Amaya said.
The Bluffton man, 51, works as a sales coordinator at the Grayco Building Center. He says the sense of family at the festival has kept his tradition of volunteering alive.
"That's what really keeps you coming back -- the camaraderie and watching everyone have a good time."
Spending the day in Beaufort for the water festival:) #staycation #BeaufortH2OFest
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.