Beaufort News

Diversity - Don't we have a festival for that?

Beaufort is a great city if you like diversity: people, industry (tourism and military; hey, that's two!), culture -- pretty much everything, except weather.

Don't let the last month of cold weather fool you. Winter will last about another, oh, 72 hours. Last week it was 70 degrees. For those of us who like fall, winter, spring -- you know, the seasons -- Beaufort doesn't offer much diversity. It's 11 months of heat and four weekends of sweater weather.

Please do not misunderstand me: I don't want someone to accuse me of complaining. I am complaining; no accusation needed. And, no, I don't need it to snow in June. I like summer in summer, spring in spring. Winter is winter. It's simple. Give me a crisp fall followed by a brisk winter, and I'm happy the other six months.

Weather aside, though, diversity is practically the official word of the city of Beaufort. We carry it into the spirit of everything we do.

There's nothing more diverse than our festivals. We have one for everything: shrimp, beer, books, wine, art, barbecue, fall -- water!

We'll celebrate anything. Coming in 2012: the Festival Festival, a festival in honor of festivals. Why not? If there's one thing Beaufort does better than "not be cold," it's festivals.

By the way, I think this is great. You know where you don't find festivals? The Mojave desert. Siberia. Antarctica. The jungles of Cambodia. Mars. Reno, Nev. Festivals are the lifeblood of any healthy, thriving civilization. There are four cornerstones of any first-world society: 1. democracy; 2. science; 3. art; 4. shrimp festivals.

Look at the February calendar: The two big festivals this month are the fifth annual Beaufort International Film Festival (Feb. 17-19) and the fourth annual Beaufort Irish Festival (Feb. 25-27).

Beaufort is neither Boston nor is it Hollywood -- despite our desire to the contrary, this area is not known for either its abundant Irish population nor its local film-making success. And, yet, we have a fest for both.

These festivals are propelled not by a chamber of commerce or a corporate-cash push, but by local people who think, every year, "Hey, why don't we have a film/Irish festival!" (I think I just inadvertently created the greatest festival ever -- the Beaufort film/Irish festival. We could drink Guinness and watch Daniel Day Lewis movies. Who wouldn't want that?)

And yet both of these festivals have grown since their beginnings. They are both a success. Let's take a moment to spiritually pat ourselves on the back for embracing two distinct, (I'm going to use that word again) diverse events that, in lesser communities, would've died after their first year. Had we been less of a forward-thinking town, either of these fests would've joined the "Salt Lake City Gangster Rap Festival" and the "Greater Pittsburgh Tofu Festival" on that scrap heap of noble, civic failure stories.

Every year we mark our calendars for the Water Festival -- and with good reason. It's great. It's huge. It's a big deal. Granted. But these smaller festivals are more indicative of our local color, of our community.

They are born from nothing except our sense of community, shared love, mutual respect and devotion to fellowship. And they grow, hopefully, each year, because of the hard work and determination of volunteers and supporters.

Beaufort is a diverse city, yes, and we have diverse interests. But it's the intersections where our lives connect -- the commonality of purpose, as evidenced by something as simple as organizing a festival -- that point to our future success.