Two days before deploying for nine months, about 20 Marines showed up Wednesday at the Henry C. Waterfront Park.
They wanted to help set up the venue for the 58th Beaufort Water Festival, even though they won't be around to enjoy it.
"It's very generous of them to come and give up part of their last two days before deploying," program coordinator Brandy Gray said of the members of VMFA 312 stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. "It was really touching."
Volunteers are making final preparations for the 10-day festival, which begins todaywith opening ceremonies, fireworks and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Marine Band. More than 400 volunteers are expected to help during the festival.
The first night is free to the public, as are most day events. Saturday afternoon will feature a new event -- the DragonBoat Beaufort race -- and country artist Chris Cagle headlines a concert later in the evening. Chris Jones and The Chuck Courtenay Band will perform as opening acts.
The festival will continue with its usual themed nights -- Teen Night on Sunday, MoTown Monday, Tropical Tuesday, the Talent Show on Wednesday, Lowcounty Supper on Thursday, the River Dance on Friday, Commodore's Ball on July 27, and the blessing of the fleet and parade of boats on July 28.
Marketing and public relations coordinator Stacey Canaday said online ticket sales are brisk, although its difficult to gauge how they compare to past year's.
With thousands of people expected to attend nightly, she encouraged people to buy advance tickets online to avoid lines at the gate -- sales end at 11:59 p.m. the night before each event -- and to use the free shuttle that makes pick-ups every 15 minutes at the Beaufort County government center parking lot. The shuttle schedule is available on the festival website, bftwaterfestival.com.
City of Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said the department has been working closely with festival organizers on security and safety. He said people should remember to stay hydrated, lock cars, and if they drink alcohol, do so responsibly and use a designated driver.
Mobile police headquarters are on the Freedom Mall and in the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot, and officers will patrol the park and downtown on foot and by bike.
Canaday said anyone with event questions can come to the festival headquarters in a trailer by the marina store.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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