The 58th Annual Beaufort Water Festival opened Friday night with a nod to the past and the event's original purpose.
"We ask you to bless this day and this water because without that gift, we would have nothing to celebrate," prayed Lt. Tiffany Smith, chaplain for 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Opening ceremonies for the 10-day festival took place in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on a comfortable evening as the sun set over the Beaufort River. Past commodores -- including two who died this year -- were recognized in a roll call. Those in attendance stood in their signature red pants and white shirts as the audience applauded.
Claude Surface Jr., 69, died March 31 in Albany. Surface was the 25th commodore in 1980 and remained active with the festival, even sending an email about this year's events from his hospital bed, said 57th Commodore John Gentry.
James deLemos Williamson, 68, died Jan. 11 in Beaufort. He was the 26th commodore in 1981 and started the signature commodore uniform and wheel symbol for the festival that is used to this day, Gentry said.
The Pirettes sang the National Anthem and the Parris Island Marine Band played for a crowd of thousands that packed the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Attention turned to the skies at dusk for the annual fireworks show.
Hope you didn't miss: The start of the annual arts and crafts market on the Waterfront Park promenade. Organizers selected 62 crafters for this year's market. Of those, 22 will be there for all 10 days of the festival. Additional crafters will display and sell their wares on the weekends. All crafters and artists have to prove they created the objects they're selling to be admitted into the market.
Better not miss: The first-ever DragonBoat Beaufort races in the Beaufort River off the seawall at the Waterfront Park. The cancer survivor/patient/support group organized in 2012 and has raced in other areas of the country. The races start at noon Saturday and consist of 24 teams of both visiting crews and Beaufort-area residents. Money raised goes to area cancer patients.
Volunteer of the day: Shannon Courtney, 17, Lady's Island. Courtney, a rising senior at Beaufort High School, is volunteering for her second year.
Along with assisting with set up for the festival, she operates a camera in front of the stage during concerts. Her role allows her to be the only under-age production crew member allowed to work on 18-and-older nights.
"That's what got me interested in my life career," said Courtney, who said she once wanted to go into photography but now plans to be a filmmaker. "... I started doing this and found out I have a really good eye for it."
Socially speaking: @Beaufortpolice, Beaufort Police Department. "Water Festival begins. ... Everybody stay hydrated, stay cool, have fun and stay sober if you're driving (you knew that was coming.) It's going to be a good one, with our own Reserve Officer Dan Thompson as commodore."
The competitive edge: Along with the DragonBoat races at noon, the badminton tournament begins at 9 a.m., the children's toad fishing tournament at 10 a.m. and the raft races at 11 a.m.
Follow Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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