Sheri Little is the Beaufort Water Festival’s 55th Commodore

By Wendy Pollitzer

Featured in The Island News

May 20, 2010

Sheri Little

Water Festival is around the corner, and Sheri Little is excited! Little, the festival’s 55th Commodore and her well-organized group of 23 Directors and 9 Coordinators have been planning this year’s event since August.  With 2 meetings a month, sometimes lasting up to 5 hours, the committee might be a little tired, but eager nonetheless.

This year’s Water Festival is July 16-25, 2010. But Little and her committee will start to set up 3 days before the event. Volunteers construct the stage, power electricity throughout the park, hang lighting, build concession booths, erect Headquarters and set up the craft market well before thousands of people invade Henry Chambers Waterfront Park for 10 days of fun in the sun!

By Wednesday of the festival, her committee has already been working a solid week.  “It’s a bittersweet feeling,” says Little. “We’re tired, but we all know it’s almost over. We get a little crazy around Wednesday, start playing lots of pranks on each other and stuff. We’re building camaraderie. We have to keep a great sense of humor with everything that goes on.”

And you never know what will happen during the week. Thankfully, Little has several past commodores from whom she can ask advice.  Sheri explains, “Water Festival is a machine. And we are blanketed with resources. Most of the volunteers have connections in the community. And we have an array of past commodores who are extremely helpful. Should something go wrong during the festival, the problem tends to get resolved relatively quickly without the public even being aware.”

If a problem does arise, Sheri Little is the woman to tackle it. She’s been with the festival for 10 years now. So she knows a thing or two about planning. In 2000, she was the Antique Show Chair. After that she became the Director of Community Relations and subsequently the Director for Public Relations. For the past 6 years, Sheri was a Coordinator and became commodore at the ball last year.

When she was called to the Board Room (the Water Festival Board consists of past commodores), on the last Saturday of the festival in 2009, Little thought her heart was going to jump out of her chest. “It was overwhelming,” she says. “ To be entrusted with that much confidence and keep such a wonderful tradition alive is humbling. I came here as a young marine’s wife, and now I’m Commodore of the oldest, longest running, all volunteer-run festival in the state. Wow.”

Little was born and raised in San Diego, California, which is where she met her future husband, Russ Little. Their first tour here in Beaufort was 1989. Little was in a bit of culture shock when she arrived. But, by the time she and Russ left three years later, she’d grown to love Beaufort. Russ got orders to come back in 1995. When he retired in 1998, they made the decision to stay here in Beaufort, thankfully!

“I always say you can be as involved or uninvolved in a community as you choose to be. I chose to get involved,” says Little. She dove into volunteering for Water Festival and has never looked back.

“The volunteers operate as a big family. This group of 400 people donates so much of their time, and during the hottest days of the year! Those who are directly involved take a week and a half vacation time just to volunteer.  This is why the festival remains so community oriented,” explains Little.

Sponsorships are key to an event of this magnitude as well. “We are very excited to have Hargray back as our Admiral of the Fleet Sponsor and Lee Distributors as our Flagship Admiral Sponsor. This year we’ll have two craft beers featured each night revolving around the theme of the evening.” Little explains.

Also new this year is a Corn Hole Tournament on the last Saturday of the festival. In addition, working dog demonstrations from the military and sheriff’s departments will take place in the park.

“We really want people to get excited about the parade of boats this year at the Blessing of the Fleet on the last Sunday of the festival,” says Little. “ We’ll offer three different $100 prizes for best commercial and recreational boat and a judges pick award.”

There is a little something for everyone in Beaufort, but too many to name in this limited space. If you are interested in the entertainment line-up and list of events, please go towww.bftwaterfestival.com for complete details.

And Little encourages everyone to get involved. New volunteers and ideas are always appreciated.  “What better way to get involved with the community than participate in Beaufort’s signature festival. It’s so much fun!”

Sheri Little is probably the most excited person in Beaufort about the 55th Annual Water Festival, and it shows. She glows when she talks about it.  It is definitely her time to shine!

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Wendy Pollitzer is a versatile writer living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

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