Story By: Cindy Reid
Photos By: Susan DeLoach
Friends, Families and Traditions
Meet Jason Berry, Commodore of the 62nd Annual Beaufort Water Festival. Yes it’s that time of year already, time for the biggest and best water festival on the southern coast. After 62 years, the Water festival has gone through many changes and, as always, this year promises to be bigger and better than ever! The Henry C. Chambers downtown waterfront park hosts the Water Festival from July 14 through 23. The Opening Ceremony takes place Friday July 14 with music provided by the Parris Island Marine Band and there will be fireworks at dusk. The event is free of charge, in fact many of the events are free and enjoyable for all ages. And, in a break from tradition, this year there is no charge for the Tuesday night concert!
There are many sporting events that take place from now, up to and during the Water Festival. You can check the website for further information on those events and to stay updated throughout the week of nonstop fun.
Beaufort Lifestyle recently caught up with Commodore Berry and got the “inside scoop” on this year’s Water Festival.
Traditions play an important role in the events but the Water Festival stays current by adding new and exciting events from time to time. What is new or different at this year’s Annual Beaufort Water Festival (BWF)?
We are always trying to improve what we do every year, and this year I think we have done a great job of making some great changes. We will be bringing back the ski show on the first Saturday, a longtime favorite for all. The air show will be bigger and better this year. Tuesday night has changed and will be an honor to all of our heroes, locally and abroad. It will be called “Hometown Tuesday” and is now free to all with local band “Bootless” playing. The big change is Thursday for “Low Country Supper” night. We will have our traditional supper served with the “Whistlers” performing. Then we will have nothing but local bands. Opening act will be Eric Daubert, Broke Locals as the main entertainment and then our big announcement; we are bringing Candace Glover in for a special guest performance.
One of the Commodore’s many tasks is to design the popular annual tee shirt. Tell us about this year’s tee shirt design.
This year’s t-shirt is special to me, just as sure as I am all others have been to past Commodore’s. What makes it so special to me is that this year’s t-shirt was designed by my daughter-in-law, Devon Berry. She and I had many discussions and then put our ideas down to canvas. I believe it captures what everyone appreciates when they come to the water front park. The view, scenery and the memories we all share. We couldn’t believe the overwhelming positive response we have gotten from the public.
How long have you been involved with the BWF?
How did you first get involved?
I transferred to Beaufort in January 2000 as a Navy Hospital Corpsman Chief. I have always been very involved with volunteering in the local community wherever I went. So, when I arrived at the Naval Hospital and asked around what was important to the community that I could volunteer for, I was told about many opportunities. However, it just so happened that the command Master Chief of the naval hospital at the time was Bob Bible, 2011 Commodore, and he made a very convincing suggestion that I could do great things for the Water Festival.
Why did you continue as a volunteer with the BWF?
There are many reasons why I chose to continue to volunteer with the Festival, but the one that makes me most proud, is the fellowship of this organization and how it strives to improve the community. It’s like when I became a Chief in the Navy. It is very hard to explain what brings folks together to put on such a large undertaking every year, but the bonds that are made with the volunteers, the community and the sponsors are why I continue every year.
What is your BWF favorite memory?
Wow, this is such a hard question but overall it’s when I walk through that crowd during opening ceremonies every year. I feel so much appreciation from the crowd that is there to enjoy this event every year. Just to see everyone coming together smiling, laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves is the most memorable and fulfilling experience. I personally feel such a sense of pride being a part of it every year.
What is your favorite event?
The Opening Ceremonies.
What entertainment do you have lined up for this year?
This year has several changes and a couple of big names that I am sure will be exciting for everyone. Concert in the Park is always our big event for the week, and this year we have lined up national recording artist Aaron Lewis, along with opening act Jordan Rager. Also appearing, local band Steel Rail Express. Monday night wouldn’t be Motown Monday without Deas Guyz, and this year Hometown Tuesday night will be FREE, featuring local band Bootless. Wednesday night is our traditional talent show featuring local acts.
Thursday, Low Country Supper night, I am sure will be a favorite this year. We will have our traditional “Whistlers” performing. Then opening act will be Eric Daubert and Broke Locals as the main entertainment and then our big announcement, we are bringing Candace Glover in for a special guest performance. Friday night, we are bringing back “The Band Punch,” if you missed them last year during Commodore’s Ball you don’t want to miss them this year. Keeping with tradition, Saturday night will be Commodore’s Ball featuring The New Royals.
Tell our readers something they may not know about the BWF
It has been voted and recognized as one of the best top ten festivals in the Southeast United States and is the longest running 62 consecutive year all-volunteer festival in South Carolina.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in San Antonio Texas, and raised in a small town named Boerne, much like Beaufort.
How did you come to live in Beaufort?
I transferred in the Navy from Afghanistan. After a few years, Beaufort became the town I chose to retire in after serving for 22 years.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to recognize the many volunteers that come out and put in their time to help this organization continue. Even if you are a first-time volunteer, coming out just for a couple of hours, you are GREATLY APPRECIATED, every job is important. After all, that’s where I started out at first, and look at me now. Also, I would like to give another special thanks to all the sponsors. We couldn’t have the opportunity to volunteer without the support of all the local businesses that sponsor. Thank you all and I wish everyone a very Happy 62nd Water Festival. It will be the best Water Festival yet!