Attendance was down at this year's 59th Beaufort Water Festival -- in part, perhaps, because of storms that walloped the city -- but businesses and community leaders are declaring the event a success.
"All in all, Water Festival did what Water Festival does," said Chip Dinkins, director of operations. "It brought a lot of people into downtown."
Festival spokesman Chris Canaday would not provide numbers but said attendance was down at the 10-day festival, held July 18 to 27. Most events were in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
Commodore Brandy Gray said attendance has dipped slightly in the past several years, and between 65,000 and 70,000 people attended paid and free events this year. Some years, attendance has been as high as 80,000, she said.
"All in all, I think we had a good week," Gray said, "... and I am happy with how it all turned out."
Most of the attendance drop was blamed on a downpour that put a damper on Motown Monday and a thunderstorm that rattled downtown on River Dance Friday, ultimately leading Gray to cancel a popular concert out of concern for patrons' safety.
"When you have a water spout start to come on land -- well, my guys will tell you, that's one of the scariest times they've ever been through," she said.
Lightning strikes from that same storm also fried electrical systems at many downtown businesses and temporarily flooded some streets.
However, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Blakely Williams reported hotel occupancy numbers were up slightly, as were room rates, showing the festival helped the hospitality industry.
Robb Wells, chamber tourism division director, said the biggest gains were on weekends -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- when occupancy was up 5 percent over last year. Bookings began four to five weeks in advance, instead of two to three, showing increased demand early. That allowed hotels to charge rates that were, on average, 7 percent higher than usual throughout the week, Wells said.
"I hate that the weather didn't cooperate, but the people were there," Wells said, adding that the festival did a good job of partnering with local organizations and advertising.
Restaurants also reported good business.
Dinkins said revenue at Plums, a Bay Street eatery where he works, returned to 2010 levels. The restaurant had been experiencing slight decreases since that year.
However, both he and Chris Johnson of Q on Bay said most of their business was during lunch and dinner hours and that nighttime sales were down. They also attributed that to the weather, as well as indications Beaufort's noise ordinance might be strictly enforced, which led some owners to provide less nighttime music and entertainment. "Overall, ... at the end of the night, after 1 o'clock, there's not as much traffic as there used to be," Johnson said.
Police reported a relatively quiet festival -- only two arrests and five incidents, compared to 11 festival-related arrests a year ago, according to Cpl. Hope Able. Beaufort police logged 672 hours of security during the festival, and Able reported no issues and no citations related to the noise ordinance.
Mayor Billy Keyserling's hopes for the second annual Beaufort DragonBoat Race came to fruition since it was the highlight of his week. The race reflects the festival's roots, as a three-day event centered around sailboat races, he said. It drew a crowd of more than a thousand people on the festival's second Saturday.
"Anytime you get up at 8 in the morning and you're welcoming people because the park is full, that's cool," he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.