Festivals and Events
- Grand Strand Weekend
- South Carolina for Kids
- South Carolina Bar-B-Que
- A Midlands Weekend
- Civil War Adventures
- South Carolina Waterways
- Three Days in Horse Country
- South Carolina for Seafoodies
- South Carolina Kitsch
- Gullah and African American History
- Upstate Weekend
- South Carolina’s Top Ten for Golfers
- South Carolina’s Offbeat Festivals
- Southern Comforts
- Lowcountry Romance
Surprisingly for a town so prominent in so many films, Beaufort didn’t have its own film festival until 2007. The Beaufort Film Festival (843/986-5400, www.beaufortfilmfestival.com) is held in late winter. It’s small in scale—the inaugural festival was only two days, at a now-defunct theater—but boasts a diverse range of high-quality, cutting-edge entries, including shorts and animation.
Technically the film festival is part of a larger event, Kaleidoscope: Film, Food, and Fine Arts (843/986-5400, www.beaufortkaleidoscope.com), a celebration of Lowcountry culture in various venues around town. Highlights include an “arts walk” (basically a town-wide art gallery open house), an “Iron Chef Beaufort” chef competition, and Friday night wine dinners wherein some leading Southern chefs take over the kitchen at a number of local restaurants.
Foodies will also enjoy A Taste of Beaufort (www.downtownbeaufort.com), usually held the first Saturday in May, which features the offerings of two dozen or so local restaurants with live music, all along historic Bay Street.
By far the biggest single event on the local festival calendar is the over 50-year-old Beaufort Water Festival (www.bftwaterfestival.com), held over two weeks in June or July each year, centering on the Waterfront Park area. One of the most eclectic and idiosyncratic events of its kind in a region already known for quirky, hyper-local festivals, the Beaufort Water Festival features events as diverse as a raft race, badminton, bocce, billiards, croquet and golf tournaments, a children’s toad fishing tournament, a ski show, a bed race, a street dance, and all sorts of live music and local art exhibits.
The signature events are two galas, the Commodore’s Ball and the Regatta Ball, and the Saturday morning two-hour Grand Parade, historically organized by the local Lions Club. A delightfully regional touch completes the festival, with a blessing and parade of the shrimp fleet on the closing Sunday.
Fall in the Lowcountry means shrimping season, and early October brings the Beaufort Shrimp Festival (www.beaufortsc.org). Highlights include an evening concert with specially lighted shrimpboats docked along the river, a 5K run over the Woods Memorial Bridge, and a more laid-back 5K walk through the historic district. Various cooking competitions are held, obviously centering around the versatile crustaceans that are the raison d’ tre of the shrimp fleet.
October also brings a relatively new event, the Chalk on the Walk (www.beaufortcountyarts.com). Based on European street festivals— and similar to Savannah’s Sidewalk Arts Festival—Chalk on the Walk features a delightful blend of street painting and performing, live music, and an art market.
St. Helena Island hosts the three-day Penn Center Heritage Days (www.penncenter.com) each November, without a doubt the Beaufort area’s second-biggest celebration after the Water Festival. Focusing on Gullah culture, history, and delicious food, Heritage Days does a great job of combining fun with education. The event culminates in a colorful Saturday morning parade, featuring lots of traditional Gullah garb, from St. Helena Elementary School to the Penn Center Historic District.
© Jim Morekis from Moon South Carolina, 4th Edition