A 'Rendezvous by the River' with Commodore Chris Canaday

A 'Rendezvous by the River' with Commodore Chris Canaday
61st Annual Beaufort Water Festival Commodore Chris Canaday.
Photo by Susan DeLoach/Courtesy Beaufort Lifestyle

It will soon be summer in the Lowcountry and here in Beaufort that can only mean one thing. It’s time for the Annual Beaufort Water Festival! Held downtown at the Henry C. Chambers waterfront park, the 61st Water Festival runs July 15 through July 24, ten days filled with awesome events and water front fun for literally every age.

Annual events such as the Festival Arts and Crafts Market, Shrimp Boat Tours, Grand Parade, Non Profit Expo, Air Show, Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats are returning, as well as the free Children’s Day which includes bounce houses, games, activities and prizes. In addition, sporting events, including bocce, badminton and croquet tournaments will be happening downtown during the festival. The Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament, the Raft Race, the Bed Race and the ever popular Talent Show are  all back again to the delight of residents and visitors alike.

Planning for the Festival starts a year in advance and due to all the “moving parts”, the ten day festival requires the efforts of about 400 volunteers. Overseeing the massive event this year is Commodore Chris Canaday, Beaufort native and Finance Manager for the Town of Port Royal, who graciously took time from his busy schedule to sit down with Beaufort Lifestyle. We enjoyed the beautiful views and soft breezes at the waterfront park, which was quiet the day we met, but will be bustling with activity come July 15.

Beaufort Lifestyle: 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)?

Commodore Chris Canaday: This year we are partnering with the City of Beaufort Fire Department on a recycling campaign during the Festival.  The campaign will benefit the Burned Children’s Fund for “Camp Can Do,” which is sponsored by the MUSC Children’s Hospital.  The City of Beaufort Fire Department’s recycling trailer will be in the park and Festival goers will be encouraged to turn in their aluminum bottles/cans.  As an incentive, for every aluminum bottle/can turned in by a Festival goer they will receive one adult beverage ticket that they can use towards the purchase of their next adult beverage.

BL: One of the Commodore’s many tasks is to design the popular annual tee shirt. Tell us about this year’s tee shirt design.

CC: I wanted a new and different perspective for the design.  There had already been a number of designs where the view was from the Waterfront Park out towards the river, or from the sandbar back towards the Waterfront Park.  One day while driving over the Woods Memorial Bridge near sunset, I looked over at the Waterfront Park and I knew then and there that was the view I wanted for the tee shirt design.  It was a view of the Waterfront Park and the Marina from the bridge at sunset during the Festival.  The artist, Patsy Stowe, did an amazing job!

BL: How long have you been involved with the BWF?

CC: Twelve years

BL: How did you first get involved?

CC: My wife and First Lady, Stacey, was actually involved in the Festival before me.  She 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.

BL: Why did you continue as a volunteer with the BWF?

CC: It’s all about the people you meet and the relationships you make.  Our Water Festival volunteers are truly a family.  It also helps that it has always been a lot of fun for me.  I enjoy the planning process that it takes to put on such a great ten day event for the Beaufort community.

BL: What is your BWF favorite memory?

CC: I have so many, that I can’t pick just one memory.  So, I will pick my favorite moment of every Festival which 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.

BL: What is your favorite event?

CC: The Opening Ceremony.

BL: What entertainment do you have lined up for this year?

CC: We are very excited about our Concert in the Park acts this year, Canaan Smith and LOCASH.  They are both up and coming country artists that we are looking forward to having at the Festival.  We are also excited about the rest of our entertainment line-up this year.  At the Opening Ceremony the Parris Island Marine Band will perform and there will be a fireworks show.  The Teen Dance will feature DJ Donna.  Motown Monday will feature Deas-Guyz.  Time Warp Tuesday will feature The Return, which is a Beatles tribute band, with opening act Broke Locals.  Lowcountry Supper will feature Too Much Sylvia, with opening act Eric Daubert.  Also, on Lowcountry Supper night you can’t forget about the Whistlers!  River Dance will feature The Breakfast Club, which is an 80’s band, with opening act Gump Fiction, which is a 90’s band.  The Commodore’s Ball will feature The Band Punch.

BL: Tell our readers something they may not know about the BWF.

CC: The Water Festival is involved in the Beaufort community and ready and willing to assist when needed.  We have assisted numerous organizations and events over the course of the years with manpower, equipment and logistics.  A sample of the organizations and events that we have assisted includes Heritage Days at Penn Center, Beaufort 300th Celebration, Candice Glover concert, Dragon Boat Beaufort, Lt. Dan Band concerts, Gullah Festival, Beaufort Twilight Run, Beaufort Charities Oyster Roast, Santa Elena Foundation when the El Galeon tall ship docked in Port Royal and most recently at the memorial service held for Pat Conroy at the Waterfront Park.

BL: Where were you born and raised?

CC: Right here in Beaufort, South Carolina!

BL: Tell us about your family.

CC: My wife, Stacey, and I are both locals.  She is a partner with the law firm of Tupper, Grimsley & Dean, and P.A.  I am the Finance Manager for the Town of Port Royal.  We have two sons, Hayden and Rowan.  Hayden is a rising 7th grader and Rowan a rising 3rd grader at Riverview Charter School.

BL: Anything else you would like to add?

CC: I would like to invite the entire Beaufort community to “Rendezvous by the River” with me for the 61st Annual Beaufort Water Festival, July 15-24, 2016!  We will have some fun in the sun for 61!

For more information visit: www.bftwaterfestival.com, or find them on Face book at the Annual Beaufort Water Festival page.


Written by Cindy Reid with photography by Susan DeLoach for Beaufort Lifestyle. Published bi-monthly, Beaufort Lifestyle is a classy, sophisticated publication about the wonderful people, places and events of Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands.  Grab your free copy at any one of 200 area locations. You can visit their website and visit their Facebook page here.