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As the sun sank into the water beyond Beaufort's Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Friday afternoon, the voices of a choir wafted through the air while residents gathered to usher in both the new year and the city's 300th birthday.
Beaufortonian Kate Stewart swayed to the music on a ledge behind the lawn.
Hundreds set up chairs and spread out blankets to hear Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers lead a "musical tour through the history of Beaufort" that included spirituals and "Summertime" from the Lowountry's own opera, "Porgy and Bess."
For Stewart, the event is "just part of belonging to a lovely community like ours."
The Tricentennial Founders' Night kicked off the yearlong celebration of the city's 1711 charter.
It is the first of many events in the new year that will feature themes marking the anniversary and Beaufort's history.
There were other voices lifted up in joy: choirs from Carteret Street United Methodist Church and Tabernacle Baptist; musician Charlie Frost of Sea Island Presbyterian Church; and the five-piece band Simply Grand led the crowd through the many eras of the city's past including the colonial, antebellum, Civil War, reconstruction and modern periods.
Between songs, local actor Jeff Evans played the role of a city founder "Tuscarora Jack" Barnwell, and recited snippets of history while wearing a colonial costume that included a tri-corner hat.
When the orange sunset faded, entirely different lights lit up the skies -- a host of fireworks, capping off the event at 6 p.m.
The birthday partiers then headed out to help ring in the new year.