News Column

59th Annual Water Festival gears up for changes

July 13, 2014

By Erin Moody, The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

July 13--With the addition of a second national act, the expansion of the DragonBoat Beaufort races, the addition of Salsa Tuesday and potentially quieter bars, a number of changes are in store for the 59th Annual Beaufort Water Festival.

The 10-day festival begins Friday and runs through July 27 in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

Festival Commodore Brandy Gray puts the concerts by country music artists Craig Morgan and Eric Paslay at the top of her list of attractions. Country music is a big draw, and she considers it a coup for organizers to get such nationally known acts.

Swapping Tropical Tuesday in favor of Salsa Tuesday is a gamble, she said, but one she thinks will pay off, based on research last year by the University of South Carolina and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"We looked at the survey results and thought, 'What can we do different?'" she said. "This will be a different genre, and we'll see how well it works."

The first Motown Monday only drew a handful of attendees, and now it's one of the days people look forward to, she pointed out. Salsa Tuesday will include a 10-piece mariachi band, Gray said.

Mayor Billy Keyserling's focus is on the growth of the DragonBoat Beaufort races, which began last year and have been moved to the second Saturday on the schedule. The races reflect the roots of the festival, which began as three days centered around sailboat races, he said.

"It was a real coming together of the community," he said. "And I think a rebirth of that kind of thing is DragonBoat, because we are taking a water sport that is entertaining to do and entertaining to watch and raises money to better understand and research cancer, and also to help cancer patients and their families."

Although Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy says there haven't been any significant changes to the enforcement of the city's noise ordinance, owners of several bars and restaurants say they aren't scheduling bands and entertainment as they have during past festivals because of heightened awareness about noise.

The Water Festival has a noise-ordinance waiver that allows it to offer music late outside, but bars and restaurants must abide by the usual rules. Those rules restrict loud music or noise between 1 and 7 a.m. seven days a week, and between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Clancy said a recently requested waiver to allow noise later at night for bars during the festival was turned down for several reasons. Such waivers are only for specific, special events, he explained. His staff is also stretched too thin during the festival to handle the increased enforcement such a waiver might require.

The bars say the waiver would have helped them capture more revenue from festival-goers who like to continue the party.

Bands that do play in bars and restaurants may find themselves competing against Water Festival entertainment, Gray said.

"I hope we don't cause anyone any hardships in terms of loss of revenues," she added.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at


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Source: Island Packet (Hilton Head, SC)

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