Beaufort News

It's nearly here! 58th Annual Beaufort Water Festival opens Friday

The 58th Annual Beaufort Water Festival returns this week with new events to complement traditional activities that have drawn thousands of visitors and residents for decades.

The 10 days of festivities kick off with opening ceremonies and fireworks Friday night.

"The excitement is building, and it's finally here," said festival spokeswoman Stacey Canaday.

The Water Festival will end July 28, with most events occurring in or near Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Set-up will begin Tuesday and be done in phases leading up to Friday.

All of the traditional theme nights, such as Teen Night, Motown Monday and Tropical Tuesday, are returning, along with the Lowcountry Supper and Talent Show competition.

Country artist Chris Cagle is headlining Saturday night's concert.

"That's going to be a great concert," festival Commodore Dan Thompson said. "We were really lucky to book him while he's on tour this year."

Cagle was booked last fall -- festival organizers have to make arrangements that early to secure big acts.

"You want to get someone who is starting their popularity curve," Thompson said. "The earlier we can get people booked, the cheaper we can get them for. We want to provide a good concert for everybody in town, for the community."

Regional acts will perform other nights. They range from Charlotte-based Eagles tribute band On the Border to rock group The Dirty Guv'nahs from Knoxville, Tenn. Local groups performing include Deas-Guyz and The Blue Dots.

The biggest addition this year will be the DragonBoat races Saturday, sponsored by DragonBoat Beaufort, a cancer-survivor support organization.

The team was created about 18 months ago, and this is its first home competition. As many as 24 teams, some traveling from other states, will race along the park seawall in the Beaufort River.

Paddlers are still needed for some of the teams, and people can sign up at or by emailing Teams are collecting donations and hope to raise $90,000. The money helps pay for the teams to compete and also helps cancer patients.

"The important part is we give cancer survivors the opportunity to do a reset," said John Dickerson, president of DragonBoat Beaufort. "They've been in cancer treatment, so they're not feeling well. They can . . . get in the boat, paddle and feel better."

The race will also include a carnation ceremony during which flowers will be thrown into the river to honor survivors and victims, like team member Carrie Unsel Freeman, who died Tuesday at age 43. Teammates will write her name on their arms to "bring her into the boat" with them, Dickerson said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at

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