In the heat of the early morning Thursday, a crew of volunteers called out warnings whenever the stage roof was on the move.
The group was among hundreds of volunteers who will help run the 64th Beaufort Water Festival, the city’s annual extravaganza that begins Friday evening with opening ceremonies and fireworks in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
The park’s open greenspace and a brick-and-tabby amphitheater overlooking the Beaufort River will host the crowds each night. The 10-day festival will draw thousands downtown for a variety of family-friendly events, with throngs spilling into the nearby restaurants and shops of Bay Street.
With the stage in place at the park pavilion, audio and video technicians and volunteers worked to move in lighting and and speakers. The 100,000-watt sound system will provide the boom for Saturday’s headlining Concert in the Park, featuring country artist Tyler Farr.
“Once we get through this weekend, the rest of it is pretty much coasting,” said Rand Thacker, a festival productions consultant who has volunteered at the festival for 20 years.
Organizers will have an eye on the weather. Summer thunderstorms are always a subplot of the long-running festival.
Event organizers throughout the country have taken more precautions since 2011, when a stage collapsed due to a wind gust at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven and injuring 58 others.
A device on the stage will measure wind speeds, said Andy Syroka, whose Custom Audio and Lighting has been the production vendor for the Water Festival the past 19 years. If winds gust above 20 mph, the stage roof will be lowered.
If gusts top 30 mph, spectators have to move at least 100 feet away. A lightning strike within 8 miles will send everyone to seek shelter.
“We want to have a plan and enact the plan and not wait until the weather gets here and then have to worry about it,” Syroka said.
Weather is a taboo subject for the volunteers heading up Friday’s festivities, which start at 7 p.m. and include a performance by the Parris Island Marine Band, in addition to the pyrotechnics over the river at dark.
Productions coordinator Josh Schott dismissed the prospect of weather affecting the show.
“Come down and be ready for a good time,” he said.
2019 Beaufort Water Festival weekend schedule
*Events in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park unless otherwise noted.
Noon-7 p.m.: Arts and crafts market
7 p.m.: Opening ceremony. Fireworks and performance by Parris Island Marine Band. Admission is free. Gates open at 6 p.m. Free shuttle service from Beaufort County Government Center.
8 a.m.- noon: Raft Race
9 a.m.-7 p.m.: Arts and crafts market
9 a.m.: Bocce tournament, badminton tournament
10 a.m.-noon: Children’s toad fishing tournament and sponsor’s expo. Tournament free and open to children 12 and under. Bring own fishing equipment. Bait is provided.
Noon- 4 p.m.: Free shrimp boat tours
8 p.m.: Concert in the park, featuring Tyler Farr, Copper Chief and Emily Ann Roberts. Tickets are $30; gates open at 7 p.m. No strollers, coolers or outside food and drink. Children 5 and under admitted free, and a free shuttle is available from Beaufort County Government Center.
9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Arts and crafts market
9 a.m.- 1 p.m.: River rally
11 a.m.- 3 p.m.: Children’s day. Games, activities, shows, bounce houses and prizes. Free admission.
Noon: Ski show
Noon-4 p.m.: Shrimp boat tours
6 p.m.-9 p.m.: Teen dance. Ages 13-17, ID required. Tickets are $10.