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Sunfest celebrates 40 years in OC

(Sept. 19, 2014) Ocean City’s largest fall festival is in full swing with hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, live music, a variety of foods and family activities at the inlet for the 40th annual Sunfest.

Ocean City’s largest fall festival kicks off the “second season” in the resort, Thursday, Sept. 18, with four days of arts and crafts, live entertainment, food and family activities during the 40th annual Sunfest. In addition to music, hundreds of local, regional and national vendors will be at Sunfest selling everything from jewelry and handbags to ceramics and smoothies.

The free festivities kicked off yesterday and continues through Sunday, Sept. 21, under giant tents at the south end of the Boardwalk, where more than 300 vendors and food booths are serving thousands of Sunfest patrons.

Ranked No. 1 in Sunshine Artist magazine’s annual 200 best shows list for 2014, Sunfest draws more than 100,000 visitors downtown each year.

“Sunfest is certainly one of our longest-standing events and something that brings out people of all different interests and all different ages,” said Jessica Waters, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City. “Whether you like to come for the food or for the live entertainment, or you like to shop the tents, there’s something for everyone.”

“There’s always an opportunity to come explore what’s new,” said Ocean City’s Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller, though many Sunfest patrons return annually to visit their favorite vendors, too, he said.

Live acts from a Beatles tribute band to local talent Randy Lee Ashcraft & the Saltwater Cowboys and Sir Rod will play the Sunfest stage all weekend, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., during free performances. The Reagan Years will give a special show to close out the festival at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21.

In addition, three ticketed performances highlight the festival each year. The 2014 headliner bands include The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, who kicked off Sunfest last night with his collection of classic soul hits; country music sensation Eric Paslay and Parmalee tonight, Friday, starting at 8 p.m.; and 80’s heartthrob Rick Springfield, who will play to a sold-out crowd Saturday night.

Tickets for the headlining acts are on sale at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center box office on 40th Street. Box office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests can also buy tickets by calling TicketMaster at 800-551-7328 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com.

Tickets will be on sale at the festival grounds during Sunfest on a first-come basis, though less than 500 remained earlier in the week for tonight’s performance, Miller said.

In addition to live music, hundreds of local, regional and national vendors will be at Sunfest selling wares from pottery and paintings to one-of-a-kind handbags and famous Eastern Shore fare.

For many, it marks the highlight of their festival season.

“This is one of the best festivals on the East Coast,” said Allen Taylor, owner of London Court Beverage, who’s been bringing his frozen drinks and fresh-squeezed lemonade to the festival for more than two decades.

“The vendors have voted Sunfest No. 1 because it’s a show that pulls in people,” Miller said.

Park Place Jewelers will host its fifth annual Sunfest Treasure Hunt on the beach Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

For a $15 donation to the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea, the first 125 to sign up each day get a chance to dig in the sand for prizes from Boardwalk gift certificates to Pandora bracelets, finished jewelry and diamond earrings. Each dig will feature at least 50 prizes, said Jill Ferrante, co-owner of Park Place.

Register for the treasure hunt at either of Park Place’s locations, on the Boardwalk at Second Street or in the White Marlin Mall on Route 50 in West Ocean City.

Participants should meet in front of the store a half-hour ahead of the dig for a briefing on the rules. They can wear gloves, but may not use shovels and buckets. The hunt takes place rain or shine.

There will also be hayrides on the beach from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day during Sunfest for $2 per person.

“No matter what your interests are, you really can find something fun to enjoy at Sunfest,” Waters said.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Saturday, Sept. 19-20, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21.

Because parking is very limited, visitors should take a bus to the festival grounds. The West Ocean City Park and Ride on Route 50, just west of the bridge, provides free parking and a $3 ride-all-day shuttle service to and from South Division Street, a block from Sunfest. The Special Event express shuttle service picks visitors up from the 40th Street convention center, where they can park for free, and takes them directly to Sunfest for a $3 ride-all-day fare. The Boardwalk tram will also be in service during Sunfest with fares at $3 each way.

For more information on bus fares, call Ocean City Transportation at 410-723-1606.

Visit http://oceancitymd.gov/Recreation_and_Parks/specialevents.html for the full schedule of Sunfest entertainment or call 800-626-2326 for more information.

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