Beaufort 300th birthday to bow out with a bang Dec. 31, usher in fourth century

Kicking off Beaufort's fourth century and saluting its 300 years of history with a bang will be the focus of Founders' Night II in the city's Waterfront Park Dec. 31. The event is free and family-oriented.

The event, produced by and featuring noted singer Marlena Smalls, will include musical performances by choirs from Tabernacle Baptist, Carteret Street United Methodist and First Presbyterian churches, Sumitra Stewart, Marlena Smalls and the Delbert Felix Trio; and historical interludes by locals Anita Singleton-Prather, Bill Harvey Jr. and Jeff Evans.

Starting at 4:30 p.m. in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, the closing ceremony will end at sunset, around 6, with the bang of booming fireworks over the Beaufort River.

"This is a birthday celebration for our wonderful city, not just to celebrate its founding in 1711 but also to kick off its fourth century of progress," Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "We want this to be a family affair and we'll end early enough so people can go out to dinner or get home for New Year's Eve festivities."

Between musical productions, the three readers will present brief snapshots of Beaufort's history, including the city's humble beginnings in 1711, economic growth and wars.

Beaufort was founded in 1711 by the English, although its beginnings date back to Spanish explorers in 1514. Beaufort was named for Englishman Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort (1684-1714), one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. It was on Jan. 17, 1711, that Beaufort's formal charter was created.

During the closing ceremony, shirts, hats and other memorabilia with the unique Beaufort Tricentennial logo will be sold at a special booth.

Also, organizers of the Beaufort 300 project are in the final stretch to raise funds for new historical markers in the Waterfront Park. For a $300 investment in Beaufort's future, donors' names will be featured on permanent historical monuments in the park commemorating the Tricentennial. Corporate and non-profit sponsorships also are available. For details, call Erin Dean at 524-1116 or visit www.cityofbeaufort.org.

Throughout the year, numerous activities have spotlighted the city's history, including the first Founders' Night on Dec. 31, 2010, a "birthday party" featuring the Parris Island Marine Corps Band on Jan. 17, recognitions by area festivals and a November production by Beaufort County public school students that raised money for the Beaufort 300 fund and for teacher mini-grants.

In the event of rain on Dec. 31, the event will be moved to The Arts Center at Beaufort High, located on Lady's Island.

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