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Beaufort Shrimp Festival: Big fun from a little crustacean

Beaufort resident William Davidson, 6, has a look of determination on his face as he competes in the shrimp peeling contest during the 16th Annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort on Saturday afternoon.  Davidson won second place in the competition, one of many events that took place during the two-day festival.
Beaufort resident William Davidson, 6, has a look of determination on his face as he competes in the shrimp peeling contest during the 16th Annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort on Saturday afternoon. Davidson won second place in the competition, one of many events that took place during the two-day festival.

Actor Gary Sinise and his 13-piece Lt. Dan Band may have been the star of the 16th annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival on Friday night but the event's namesake recaptured the spotlight Saturday.

Thousands flocked to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for the second and final day of the festival, which kicked off Friday night with a free concert featuring the "Forrest Gump" and "CSI: New York" star and his band. It was the first time Sinise had been back to Beaufort since filming "Gump" in 1993, according to event organizers.

The concert was organized by the Independence Fund, a Beaufort nonprofit organization that raised $100,000 to cover travel and lodging expenses for more than 50 severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their caretakers to attend this year's festival. There were also a number of events throughout the week including an 11-mile bike ride Saturday around Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Linda Ryson of Columbia was among those at the park Friday for the concert, and returned Saturday to sample shrimp dishes prepared by a number of Beaufort-area eateries.

"It was a great concert for a great cause," Ryson said. "It was incredible to see Gary Sinise, and all those great veterans who have given up so much for us. It definitely got me a little choked up."

Jim Royal of Bluffton also returned for the second day of the festival Saturday.

"This whole event, last night and today, makes you proud to live in a place like this," Royal said. "The concert and today's festival really shows what this community is all about."

Saturday's festivities also featured a shrimp peeling competition and the Sea Island Rotary's 2nd annual Rubber Shrimp Race, which pits thousands of numbered, plastic shrimp against one another down a quarter-mile stretch of the Beaufort River.

The Rotary Club sold $10 sponsorships for each of the faux shrimp with proceeds going toward Polio Plus, a Rotary initiative to cure the disease in the developing world.

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