By Tess Malijenovsky
“We drank the Kool-aid and we liked it,” says Elizabeth Brown.
This is Water Festival lingo for being roped into the Water Festival volunteer staff and liking it.
She and her twin brother, Van, are going on nine years of volunteering and have accumulated some Water Festival expertise.
When Elizabeth and Van were just 16 years old, their father asked if they would like to volunteer for the festival while they were still in school.
“We were ‘voluntold’ to show up,” as Van recalls. “He [Van’s father] says, ‘Oh, by the way, tomorrow at 5 o’clock you better get up and shower so that you can be on stage at 6:30 a.m.’ That was the end of that discussion, and as they say, the rest is history.”
Having some background in theater, the pair began volunteering for production, setting up the concert stages and handling the spotlights. This year, however, they’ve both become directors. Van is a director of production and Elizabeth is a director of sports events.
While everyone on the Water Festival staff is a volunteer, the job has its perks. They get free T-shirts, hats and access to the events. Van has been able to meet a lot of the famous performers who have played over the years, including Josh Turner.
The animated duo can tell all about the turnouts at the varying sports tournaments as well as the bands that are a must-see this year.
“The Concert in the Park is the show that everyone talks about. Within the festival we all have the nights that we love. My personal favorite is Motown Monday,” said Van. According to him, the Motown group Deas-Guyz “blew it up last year.”
“My favorite night is Thursday, the Lowcountry Supper,” says Elizabeth.
The Marine Corps and Rotary Club and other volunteers help prepare the shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes — also known as Beaufort’s famous Frogmore Stew — for hundreds of hungry festivalgoers.
While the supper is being served, the band The Broke Locals will perform live, followed by a mysterious band The Whistlers at 7:15 p.m.
“The Whistlers, no, we’re not telling you about The Whistlers. Here’s my advice: Show up. You have to see them,” said Elizabeth.
The two have been around since the River Dance was the Street Dance on Bay Street, and they can tip any tourist about the “Redneck Yacht Club” (a.k.a. The Sandbar).
“Originally,” Van informs, “[Water Festival] was just a celebration of the Beaufort area. We celebrated out on the old pier and it was just a couple of concerts on a built stage to bless the fleet, commemorating the shrimp trawlers and wishing them safety on the waters. But now, for the community and for lack of better words, this is the biggest party of the summer. Come out, show your support and have a really good time.”
Like so many others, Van and Elizabeth’s love for Water Festival is irrefutable, and that is to say so is their love for their hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina.