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More than 300 vendors selling merchandise, food during Sunfest

(Sept. 20, 2013) The 39th annual Sunfest kicked off yesterday and continues through Sunday evening with food, arts and crafts, hayrides, children’s activities and live music at the inlet parking lot.

Admission is free to the event, where more than 300 vendors will be selling wares from pottery, paintings and wire-wrapped jewelry to Philly cheesesteak and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary’s famous oyster fritters.

In all, there will be 186 arts and craft vendors, 50 commercial Midway vendors, 12 pre-packaged food vendors, 26 food stalls and 12 demonstrating artists, Special Event Coordinator for the Town of Ocean City Brenda Moore said.

“We’ve got a little but of everything,” she said.

“It’s a quality show. I think it’s the best show,” said Benny Zhang of Celestial Gardens, who will be demonstrating his bonsai techniques at Sunfest.

He’s been coming to festival the past six years and said the “quality of the vendors and craftsmanship” makes the show stand out.

Each year, the Brandywine, Md.-based artist brings a new style of bonsai to the show, from four-inch trees to 30-year-old living works of art.

Henry Duquette of Wild Fire Glass, based in Somerset, Mass., agreed: Sunfest is “one of our best shows.”

“It’s extremely well-done. The promoters do an incredible job. All shows should be based on Sunfest,” he said.

Duquette will be displaying his fused glass and fancy metal pendants under the demonstrators’ tent.

In all, the festival draws about 20 percent new vendors each year, mixed with staples, who have returned year after year, Moore said.

“We definitely have a fan base who do come every year, and they let us know what they do and don’t like,” she said.

The Ocean City-Berlin Maryland Optimist Club has been with the show since it’s beginnings, the club’s Sunfest Chairperson Ron Kupec said.

Over the years, the group has raised more than $1 million in scholarships for local high school students and the Ocean City and Ocean Pines recreation departments, among other groups, and Sunfest is one of its major fundraisers, he said.

Look for the Optimist Club’s famed crab cakes, flounder sandwiches and shrimp baskets. New this year is its seafood bisque, and “people are loving it,” Kupec said.

Sunfest provides, “great entertainment, a great variety of food at a decent price and just a good time,” said the 22-year Sunfest veteran. “Its at the ocean, of course, so you’ve got a beautiful view, along with some great vendors.”

Sunfest began as a “second season” event in 1974, when business had slowed down in the resort town, Moore said.

“Somewhere along the line, the town starting helping, and eventually took it over,” she said. “It grows a little every year.”

Last year, 185,016 people attended the event.

“Families bring their children and grandchildren and it’s become a tradition for a lot of them,” Moore said. This year’s Sunfest continues the tradition of offering activates for the whole family.

There will be hayrides on the beach from the inlet to the pier and back for $2 every day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rides will last approximately 15 minutes. There will also be inflatables on the beach, a vendor offering sand art and an airbrush tattoo artist for children.

Parking for Sunfest is free at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 41st Street and the Sunfest Express shuttle will carry festivalgoers from the convention center to the Inlet Parking Lot. The non-stop bus costs $3 for a day pass or $1 per trip and leaves every 30 minutes, 9 a.m. until 30 minutes following the end of the evening’s last concert.

Visitors can also use the Park & Ride service in West Ocean City or take the Boardwalk tram.

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