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With the 56th annual Beaufort Water Festival winding down Saturday, festival organizers took their first official steps toward next year's event by electing the 2012 Water Festival Commodore.
Already donning the bright red trousers worn only by festival commodores, John Gentry's ascent from volunteer to commodore was made official Saturday when he was given his navy blue blazer by 2011 Commodore Bob Bible and 1958 Commodore Sammy Gray, the oldest living commodore. Gentry was elected earlier Saturday by the previous commodores, according to event officials.
Gentry, a physical education teacher at Beaufort Middle School and the program coordinator for this year's event, has been a festival volunteer since 1984, and said the event holds a special place in his heart.
"Growing up as a teenager in Beaufort, Water Festival was the thing you always wanted to do and be a part of," Gentry said. "In all of that hard work, I found a group of people who took on the task of putting on a great party for all of the citizens of Beaufort and it didn't matter how long you stayed, how much you lifted -- it was all about the party for everyone."
Bible said Gentry's election was well-deserved.
"You have to be able to think on your feet, you have to be able to make split-second decisions to make sure that what happens in that park is the best event that Beaufort, South Carolina, has ever had," Bible said. "This year that happened with the help of (Gentry)."
The Water Festival continued Saturday with an air show, shrimp boat tours and the annual Commodore's Ball at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
The 10-day event concludes today with the Blessing of the Fleet and a boat parade at 12 p.m.