Thursday 24 January 2019
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Salt Marshes and Bay Breezes Commodore : Stacey Canaday

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Paul Nurnberg
Meet  Stacey Canaday, the  63rd Annual Beaufort Water Festival  Commodore. The Commodore and her talented team of Coordinators and Directors put on South Carolina’s premier festival, the Beaufort Water Festival, which really is , “10 incredible days of Lowcountry fun and memories that last a lifetime.”
That is not an overstatement as the renowned Beaufort Water Festival is a community event, staffed entirely by approximately 400 volunteers,  taken to the highest level.  The events are a combination of annual traditions, new ideas, and world class entertainment. Above all it is a celebration of Beaufort’s  lively waterfront and friendly hometown community.
The events start with the Parris Island Marine Band concert and Fireworks, the exciting Raft Race, the Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament, and the always great Ski Show. Don’t forget the country music Concert in the Park, perennial favorite Motown Monday, Hometown Tuesday, the sweet local Talent Show, the Lowcountry Supper and the Commodore’s Ball.
Let’s not leave out the sporting events, the Water Festival Grand Parade, the sponsor’s expo, the Festival Arts and Crafts Market, the Blessing of the Fleet and the Parade of Boats.  And then there is the Whistlers ( you have to see it to believe it), the popular Teen and River Dances, the non-profit expo, the thrilling air show, bed race and shrimp boat tours.
The list of fun and entertaining things to do at the Water Festival is so long that we can’t even put it all here- you will have to check out the schedule of events to see the full list of activities available.
When she not wearing her Commodore’s jacket, Stacey is a practicing attorney and a partner in the law firm of Tupper, Grimsley, Dean & Canaday, PA in Beaufort. Recently Beaufort Lifestyle caught up with Commodore Canaday to talk about 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 will have three acts for Concert in the Park this year, and so we are opening gates at 6:00 pm for a show time of 7:00pm.

One of the Commodore’s many tasks is to design the popular annual tee shirt. Tell us about this year’s tee shirt design.
I had a clear vision of the theme for the 63rd Water Festival, and how I wanted it conveyed through the official artwork.  I knew I wanted my sister to create the painting, and fortunately for me she obliged!  Amanda captured Beaufort in that painting and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.

How long have you been involved with the BWF?
16 years.

How did you first get involved?
I was a Pirette many, many years ago.  When I returned to Beaufort after law school. I joined a few civic organizations – Zonta, The Rotary Club of the Lowcountry, and Young Lawyers – all of which participated in the Festival.  Once I joined my current firm, my now partner, Erin Dean, suggested I help with Children’s Day back in 2002.

Why did you continue as a volunteer with the BWF?
The people and the fun kept me coming back, with the bonus of having learned organization and leadership skills along the way.
What is your BWF favorite memory?
There are too many memories and moments to count!  One of my favorites, though, was watching my two children steal the show during Commodore’s Ball when Chris became the 61st Commodore.  Our normally reserved Hayden just went all out on stage and performed dance moves we didn’t know he had!

What is your favorite event?
Choosing one is difficult.  Opening Ceremonies is always exciting, what with the fly over, the Parris Island Marine Band and fireworks.  Knowing how many moving parts are involved with Opening Ceremonies, and watching it go off without a hitch, is fantastic.

What entertainment do you have lined up for this year?
We’ve got wonderful and exciting acts this year!  Our headliner for Concert in the Park is Grainger Smith, featuring Earl Dibbles, Jr. (check him out on YouTube and ESPN), with opening acts of John King and Walker County.  To accommodate all three, we are opening gates at 6:00 pm.  We will also have crowd favorites Deas-Guyz for Motown Monday and Steel Rail Express for Tuesday (which is also a FREE night), Zac Brown tribute band 20 Ride will join us Thursday for Lowcountry Supper, Groove Town Assault will get the party started Friday, and rounding out the week on Commodore’s Ball will be Emerald Empire Band.

Tell our readers something they may not know about the BWF.
We can’t say it enough: all of our staff are volunteers, and we work year round to put the Festival together.  Even with an all-volunteer staff, Water Festival makes a significant economic impact upon the City of Beaufort during the ten days of events, bringing thousands of visitors to Beaufort to stay in our hotels, enjoy our wonderful restaurants and participate in the many activities we have to offer.

Tell us something about yourself we may not know.
We have chickens; in fact we have five chickens, which are more like pets than farm animals. We have White Leghorns, Americanas and Bard Rocks.  My son Hayden takes care of them, we call him the ‘chick wrangler!’ Another thing you may not know is that I absolutely love working out at Crossfit.

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Tennessee, but raised in Beaufort since about the age of three.

How did you come to live in Beaufort?
My parents moved here with my sister and me after my dad retired from the Air Force.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Chris, was the Commodore of the 61st Annual Water Festival.  He is the government finance officer for the Town of Port Royal and has been there for about fourteen years.  Chris and I attended school together since elementary school, though never dated until our last semester in college! We have two boys, Hayden who is 14 years old and a rising ninth grader at Beaufort High School, and Rowan who is ten years old and a rising fifth grader at Riverview Charter School.  Both boys have been around Festival since they were born, and they usually pitch in during set up and take down.
My father, Charles, served in the Air Force during Vietnam, and was a police officer for the City of Beaufort for about twenty years before retiring.  I remember when he used to work extra shifts at the Water Festival.  My dad passed away in 2007, and we miss him daily.  My mom, Paula, worked many years in human resources for the National Water Lift plant that existed at what is now the industrial park before moving to Hargray where she retired as Human Resources manager several years ago.  She is now remarried to David Hoffman and they live in Bluffton.  My sister, Amanda Paige, lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband Jeff and my niece, Savannah.  The last few years they have indulged me and have come to visit us during Water Festival!  Finally, my brother, CB Patterson, lives in Kathleen, GA with his wife Kim and my three nieces Katherine, Caroline and Charlie.  CB followed in our dad’s footsteps, and is a Technical Sergeant at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.  I’m also fortunate to have my in-laws, Kelvin and Linda Canaday, here in Beaufort, too.
Beaufort is fortunate to have our newest Commodore and if you see Commodore Canaday at the Water Festival be sure and stop and say hello!
The 63rd Beaufort Water Festival is held July 13-22, 2018. Most activities take place at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort SC. For further information visit the website,, on Face Book (Annual Beaufort Water Festival) and on Instagram (Annual Beaufort Water Festival).