Prep is under way for the 65th Beaufort Water Festival - July 16-25, 2021

While it’s still unclear what it will look like, it appears the Beaufort Water Festival will return in July 2021 and at least a little bit of normal will return to Beaufort, SC.

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 65th Water Festival is scheduled to run July 16 through July 25, ten days filled with awesome events and water front fun for literally every age.

As of Tuesday, the lone sentence – “Upcoming event details coming soon!” – was still floating in a sea of empty white space on the Beaufort Water Festival’s web page – Though the page still lists this year’s festival dates as July 16-25, 2021, the events of the last year make it easy to believe that disappointment might not be far away.

That’s not going to happen, Beaufort Water Festival Commodore Erin “Tank” Morris said Tuesday afternoon. “We are having a festival,” Morris confirmed. “The opening ceremonies will still be held July 16.”

In late February, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removed the mandate against gatherings of 250 or more people. That paved the way for organizers to continue planning for the 2021 Water Festival with relative confidence their work wouldn’t be a waste of time.

“Once the Governor lifted the mandate, that sprung things into action,” Morris said. “We had been handcuffed. The community is ready for an event. We immediately started an open dialogue with the city. They have been a great partner. It will be good to try and return to normal and bring life back to downtown and to Beaufort. It will be a real shot in the arm.”

The 65th Beaufort Water Festival was originally scheduled for July 17 through 26, 2020. But in early May, with the COVID-19 pandemic growing, the event’s Board of Directors made the decision to bite the bullet.

At the time, the Beaufort Water Festival Board of Directors wrote:

“Our Water Festival crew has spent many months planning the 65th Annual Beaufort Water Festival for July 2020. Paramount to our planning has been the current status of COVID-19 and the health precautions needed to maintain a safe environment.

“Our organization has three driving factors: the community, partnerships, and volunteers. The relationships among these elements are what makes the Annual Beaufort Water Festival a leading, time-honored tradition throughout the southeast.

“Considering the recommendations from the Center of Disease Control, health care professionals, and ultimately, the safety and health of us all, we feel it is necessary to postpone the 65th Annual Beaufort Water Festival and all associated sports and water & air events until July 2021. This decision was not made easily and is driven by the utmost concern for our community, partners, and dedicated staff of volunteers.

“We thank you for your understanding and we are confident that if we all work together and support each other, our community will return to normalcy stronger than ever.”

That “dedicated staff of volunteers” is one of the biggest reasons Morris is excited this year’s event is a “go.”

“A great part about it is the crew I get to work with,” Morris said. “They have been involved, some since 2019, and have all stuck it out. They have been able to pick back up where they left off.”

Morris said his group had been making loose plans, nothing concrete, knowing they might have to hit the ground running at any time.

“We were planning but not planning,” he said. “At least we were able to get things pointed in the right direction.”

As of Tuesday, there were still a lot of unknowns. How many people would be allowed in events? What events would be held? Will there be a headliner?

Morris said some of those decisions and announcements may be public by our press time. He indicated that most of those decisions would be made and announced by this weekend.

Story originally published by Mike McCombs, The Island News
Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at