Stacey Canaday

Yes Ma'am: She's the Commodore


by Mary Hope Roseneau    
Photography by Captured Moments Photography

Stacey Canaday looks like a typical busy mom on any given Saturday: her hair’s in a ponytail, and she’s wearing shorts, a tee shirt and running shoes. We meet in her office on Bay Street, in a beautiful antebellum home at the foot of the bridge that houses the offices of Tupper, Grimsley, Dean, and Canaday, P.A. Attorneys at Law. Yes, this young mom is a partner in one of Beaufort’s oldest and most prestigious law firms. That alone is quite an accomplishment for the Beaufort native, who is also married and the mother of two boys. But wait! There’s more! She’s also Commodore of the Beaufort Water Festival this year. (July 13-22)

A 1993 graduate of Beaufort High School, Stacey did her undergraduate work at Lander University and went on to law school at Louisiana State University. She was serving as a dorm counselor at Lander as a senior, when freshman Kelley Canaday, also from Beaufort, mentioned her brother would be coming up for the weekend. It was in Greenwood that Stacey and her husband Chris re-connected. Stacey needed a date for a sorority formal, asked him, and they fell in love. They were married after her graduation from LSU. The passing results on her law boards were delivered the day Stacey and Chris returned from their honeymoon.

The two always knew they wanted to live and raise their family in Beaufort. Stacey started working at a local law firm, and before long their sons Hayden, now 14, and Rowan, 10, came along. Both boys attend Riverview Charter School. Stacey’s husband Chris is the Finance Director for the Town of Port Royal and served as Commodore two years ago.

Stacey has been involved with the Water Festival since serving as a Pirette during her junior and senior years of high school. The Pirettes are a troop of high school girls who travel to other towns representing Beaufort and riding in parades to promote the Water Festival. During the actual festival, Pirettes serve as volunteers and ambassadors, assisting visitors and dignitaries and riding in the annual parade, usually on a shrimp boat float.

When Stacey and Chris returned to Beaufort to start their life together, they both became Water Festival volunteers. Stacey initially was involved in volunteering for events through Rotary, Zonta, and Young Lawyers groups. After a few years, Chris became the Water Festival’s assistant treasurer, then treasurer, and Stacey was asked to be director of the Pirettes. Stacey also recalls fondly serving as the Children’s Day Coordinator 14 years ago, the summer she was very pregnant with Hayden. As everyone in Beaufort knows, Children’s Day is somehow always the hottest day of festival week. The fire department brings water hoses to spray the children and adults down.

Planning actually starts for this huge annual event a year before it happens. The volunteers have a picnic a few weeks after the end of the festival, and planning for the next year begins. There are meetings twice a month throughout most of the year, but as festival week gets closer, meetings escalate. When asked to estimate the number of hours per week she works on the Water Festival, Stacey demurs. “It’s hard to say,” she smiles, but she gives credit to the hundreds of other volunteers who are working many hours as well. Stacey also gives credit to her law firm, which graciously allows her to spend many hours on the annual event, particularly at this time of year.

Her favorite part of the Water Festival? “Opening night, of course.” The excitement, Stacey says, is at its highest at this first event at the Waterfront Park, which features the Marine Corps band and fireworks. “It’s like a big homecoming for family and friends,” Stacey explains. “And of course, it’s always a free event.”

According to Stacey, there’s a change in the Water Festival this year. The Fishing Tournament will be open to fishermen everywhere: on piers, docks, along the Spanish Moss Trail, not just those in boats! One of the first festival events this year, the Fishing Tournament will take place the weekend of June 8th. Stacey is hopeful that opening the tournament to everyone, whether they have a boat or not, will make it a big success.

The 2018 Beaufort Water Festival events will also include the favorite Hometown Tuesday night, featuring local musical artists such as Steel Rail Express. On Saturday, there is the wonderful parade and air show, and this year the festival is bringing back the classic ski show.

A new feature for festival boaters will be the day dock, available free at Waterfront Park. Located directly across from the children’s playground area, the day dock will be available on a first come, first serve basis, and is sure to be a great year-round addition to Waterfront Park.

Stacey says she looks forward to August, when she will turn the Water Festival reins over to the next Commodore and be free to spend more time with her family. When asked what she likes to do to relax, Stacey said, “Just sitting on the beach with a book”. She also likes to listen to podcasts and music while straightening up at home and just being with Chris and the boys.

Stacey repeated the secret to the success of the Beaufort Water Festival since 1956: “It only happens because of the hearts of volunteers, the financial support from our sponsors, and the good folks of Beaufort.”

Up Close:

How to keep up with family schedules, work, and volunteering:  “It’s all on the fridge!”  Of course she credits a very supportive spouse, grandparents, and friends who all pitch in to help with the boys and their activities.  “It really does take a village,” she laughed.  

Favorite family meal:  Breakfast for dinner!  Stacey and her boys raise chickens, so there’s always lots of fresh eggs to eat in various ways.

Where to find more information on the Water Festival: