Thursday 24 January 2019
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Team Canaday

A Beaufort Water Festival “First”

Team Canaday
story by Cindy Reid
photos by Paul Nurnberg
The Annual Beaufort Water Festival usually has a new ‘first’ every year and this year is no different- it is the first year that both a husband and wife have been elected Commodores. For Chris Canaday (Commodore 2016) and Stacey Canaday (Commodore 2018) this is the culmination of being dedicated Beaufort Water Festival volunteers for many years.
As this year’s Commodore, Stacey has much to do, and as she says, “Chris is my biggest fan, and is always my biggest help. He was Treasurer and gave me good pointers as far as that piece of the Water Festival is concerned. He is a great sounding board, as are all of our Past Commodores, but I really rely on ‘my table,’ my staff of very experienced and dedicated Coordinators, to make sure it all runs smoothly.”
Stacey had been a Beaufort Water Festival volunteer for several years when she brought her husband Chris (Finance Manager for the Town of Port Royal) to a crew picnic. As he tells it, “Stacey was the Children’s Day Chairperson for two years before I got involved.  After her second year, I went with her to the Water Festival Crew Picnic.  The Treasurer at the time, Jack Little, was talking at the picnic about how he was looking for an Assistant Treasurer.  I volunteered for the position that day and the rest as they say is history.” After many years of volunteering, Chris was the 2016 Commodore.
Stacey says, “I started out at ground level as a volunteer. In fact I was pregnant with our son Hayden when I first started volunteering, and later with our son Rowan, so the boys have essentially been at every Water Festival in their lives. Although volunteering means we are busy every summer, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it, and I like to think we are instilling a sense of volunteerism in our sons.”
Chris says, “My favorite moment of every Festival is the Opening Ceremony.  It is the culmination of ten months of hard work and planning by our volunteers.  Seeing families and friends smiling, laughing and having a good time while watching the Parris Island Marine Band and the fireworks show makes all the time spent planning more than worth it.”
Stacey says, “I love the Opening Ceremony because it is your first event, which makes it so special and meaningful. I see people from over the decades, so I get to see people I haven’t seen in many years, and the Opening Ceremony itself gives me chills.”
Every Commodore becomes Chairman of the Board for the year following their time as Commodore, and then they officially retire from being actively involved as a volunteer with the festival. But Commodore Stacey hints that husband Chris may not be fully retired from the Water Festival just yet. She says everyone at the Lowcountry Supper (Thursday, July 19) should keep their eyes on the popular Whistlers act, ‘Stay tuned for a possible surprise.” So we might see former Commodore Chris one more time? She will only say, “I promise it will be fun!”
When her time ends, Stacey says, “It will be hard to go from weeks and months of being focused and busy to ‘phone silence.’ I am sure I will miss it, because I have been thrilled and proud to be involved with the Water Festival for so many years.”
A little history…..
“Once a year, in mid-summer, the sea island that holds Beaufort becomes a gigantic stage for one of the South’s biggest outdoor events. Successful from its beginning, the Beaufort Water Festival has grown each year in importance and entertainment value, but is still worked as a community, non-profit project.  The first Festival was held in July 1956, with John Bigbee serving as the first President and Gladys Thompson in charge of the visiting queens.  The Lions Club took the job of putting on the first parade and has been doing so every year since.
In the early days of the Festival, it cost fifty cents to attend the Beauty Pageant, one dollar per couple to attend the Water Festival Ball (which was later changed to the Commodore’s Ball) and two dollars to attend the Regatta Ball. The first weekend featured two days of sailboat races and the Regatta Ball. The following weekend began with the Beauty Pageant on Friday where the Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands was crowned. The parade and ski show, put on by the Beaufort Water Ski Club, and an air show highlighted the second weekend, in addition to the Water Festival Ball. ​
As the years went by, the Festival began to draw more and more people to Beaufort from other parts of the state and on a national level. Events such as fishing and golf tournaments as well as a craft market and Sponsors’ and Community Non-Profit expos were added to the lineup so the Festival had something to offer for every age and interest.
All events were held on or adjacent to the municipal parking lot and in case of inclement weather (the word “rain” is never used during the Festival), the pageant would move indoors to the Beaufort Elementary School and the Balls would be held in the Community Club.
The Festival continues to add new events and drop some events to keep current with the interests of festival-goers. Over 400 volunteers work long hours to bring the events to the Festival. The Festival is able to offer first class entertainment at reasonable prices because of the generosity of our loyal sponsors.​​ “