(Sept. 27, 2013) The 39th Annual Sunfest scored big last weekend, drawing the largest crowd since 2008 and topping the average attendance by more than 10,000 people.
The four-day festival at the inlet parking lot greeted a crowd of more than 186,775 between last Thursday and Sunday.
Not only was the crowd total up slightly from last year’s pull of 185,016, it was the largest attendance since 2008 and well above the festival’s five-year average of 175,299 attendees.
“I am extremely pleased to report that we had a very successful Sunfest,” said Tom Shuster, director of Ocean City’s Recreation and Parks Department. “We had outstanding vendors, great entertainment, fabulous weather and the largest attendance since 2008.”
Sunfest had more than 300 arts, crafts and food vendors, live music, hayrides on the beach and an array of food to sample.
“It was a beautiful weekend. Attendance was great. Concerts sold,” said department Special Events Coordinator Brenda Moore.
It was “one of the busiest Sunfests I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel said.
The headliner acts were a major draw, with Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves and The Beach Boys playing sold-out concerts to 1,750-person crowds Friday and Saturday. Jesse Garon’s tribute to Elvis Thursday night drew an audience of 1,367 and other live music played throughout the weekend.
“The music brings in the people,” said Michelle Bender of Dixie Bags, a Virginia business selling tapestry and embroidered handbags and accessories.
Sunfest 2013 was “not our best year ever, but amongst the top,” said the festival’s seven-year veteran. “It’s a great show and we love going to it. It’s a profitable show, but it’s also very enjoyable.”
Some vendors complained that the music hampered their business, however.
“It’s very hard to do business with the music being that overbearing,” said Beverly Myers of New York-based Rob & Staff LLC, which sells canes and walking sticks. Sometimes two bands played simultaneously, making it hard to communicate with customers, she said.
“We don’t really have any business after 8 o’clock at night after the concert starts,” Myers added.
In terms of business, the eight-year Sunfest veteran said “it was okay,” but “wasn’t up.” Many customers come year after year and don’t need to keep buying new walking sticks, she said.
But Myers dubbed the Sunfest overall “pretty good,” citing good weather for drawing the crowds.
Sunfest firsttimer Igor Nasibyan of Pennsylvania-based Silhouettes said, “It’s more an entertainment crowd” at Sunfest. He did not do the business he expected at creating paper silhouettes of customers, but noted “a lot of people did good business.”
Ben May of Ben May Clay handmade pottery from Westminster, Md. said Sunfest 2013 “went absolutely wonderful” for his business and sales were “definitely up from last year.”
A four-time Sunfest vendor, May said he made more large sales than in past years.
“The band, The Beach Boys, just drew the right type of crowd,” he said, and “the weather was beautiful.”