Beaufort News

Beaufort's 300th birthday party draws hundreds

Neither a last-minute location change, nor rain could dampen the celebratory spirit among hundreds of people gathered for Beaufort's 300th birthday party Monday that included a concert by the Parris Island Marine Corps Band.

Originally scheduled for the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, organizers shifted gears early in the day at the first sign of inclement weather and moved the event to the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Performing Arts Center.

The city-hosted event began with remarks from Mayor Billy Keyserling and invocation by the Rt. Rev. Alden Hathaway, bishop in residence at the Parish Church of St. Helena.

On Jan. 17, 1711, the city received its original English charter.

Keyserling called on those gathered to help make Beaufort a better place so future generations can also enjoy it.

"This is a great town we live in," Keyserling said. "It's one of the most special places in the world. It's certainly the most special place in my world."

After a presentation by the color guard, the Marine Corps band played a selection of songs including famous marches, "God Bless America," and a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that had some in the audience dabbing at tears.

The band brought the crowd to its feet multiple times before Keyserling asked for one final number and invited all to sing "Happy Birthday" to Beaufort.

Beaufort's Tricentennial Committee, which planned the event, wanted Monday's program to honor the city's more than 100-year relationship with the military.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, also presented a proclamation from the South Carolina Senate in honor of the city's birthday.

After the event, attendees mingled and munched on birthday cupcakes provided by Southern Graces.

Nancy and Bryant Everard of Buffalo, N.Y., enjoyed helping Beaufort celebrate the milestone. The pair has spent winters on Harbor Island since 1996.

"We love the history," Nancy Everard said. "It was great; the music was wonderful."

W. Brantley Harvey, a native Beaufortonian and former lieutenant governor, called the music "exceptional" and said the event brought back memories of celebrations in the early 1960s to commemorate John Ribaut's settlements.

Although much of the program went as planned, the location change forced organizers to cancel a few activities slated for the party, including 21-gun salute by local Marines and a writing station where people could create birthday cards for the city.

The public still is encouraged to send birthday cards with their hopes for the city's future, officials said.

During the program, Keyserling also read off names of people and businesses who have contributed to Beaufort 300, a city-sponsored fundraiser to help raise money for a permanent marker in the Waterfront Park commemorating the city's first 300 years, as well as other tricentennial-related activities.

Launched in November, Beaufort 300 seeks 300 people to donate $300 each. Names of those who contribute will appear on the historical marker.

The program has raised about $20,000 so far, and the city will continue collecting money throughout the year, tricentennial committee members said.

Those interested can also stop by Modern Jewelers on Bay Street for more information, said Kevin Cuppia, chairman of the fundraising effort.

Although Monday marked the official anniversary, many local festivals and organizations plan to adopt the Tricentennial theme throughout the year.