Ocean City Today

Sunfest sees second-largest attendance in 43-yr. history

By Kara Hallissey | Sep 28, 2017
Photo by: Lisa Capitelli Ocean City’s annual fall festival, Sunfest, drew 235,637 people to the inlet parking lot over four days, Sept. 21-24. It was the second-largest attendance in the festival’s 43-year history.

(Sept. 29, 2017) The second-largest attendance in Sunfest history brought 235,637 people to the inlet last weekend to shop for treasures, listen to music and snack on favorite Eastern Shore foods.

The 43rd annual festival kicked off last Thursday with a parade down the Boardwalk. More than 300 vendors under large tents were featured during the four-day event.

“We had an incredible Sunfest and it was the perfect example of what makes Sunfest so special and successful,” Jessica Waters, Town of Ocean City communications manager, said. “If I could pick the weather for Sunfest, last weekend’s weather was exactly what I would pick. Overall attendance was at an [almost] record high.”

Waters said the record was set last year, when attendance hit 251,577.

“Headlining concerts had very strong attendance and were a great musical experience over the three days,” she said.

Country legend Clint Black performed his old-school favorites to a sold out audience on Friday night, with 1,783 spectators. More than 1,300 people checked out the Christopher Cross performance on Saturday night and 833 swing fans turned out to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Thursday evening.

Overall, the concerts netted more than $30,000 for the Town of Ocean City.

“We want to offer different genres every year,” Frank Miller, special events director for the Town of Ocean City, said. “Overall, we felt the three headlining acts were a success.”

Weather plays a huge role in Sunfest attendance each year. Because it was overcast and cloudy on Friday, Miller said “It wasn’t a great beach day and we saw a heavy increase in crowds.”

He said many visitors are starting to avoid Saturday crowds by checking out Sunfest a day earlier.

“It shows the popularity of Sunfest,” Miller said. “People want to come and enjoy it. I am glad we are a four-day event.”

Hayrides on the beach had the highest revenue for ridership this year, and Fiat Chrysler set up a Jeep Compass Experience course on the beach for visitors to try out for free.

“Fiat-Chrysler met their quota on Saturday and I am hoping we can offer more marketing activations [in the future] that can be successful at Sunfest,” Miller said. “We want to continue to draw new people and add to our demographic with unique opportunities, like the Jeep Compass Experience.”

Sunfest food, craft, commercial and local vendors reported record-breaking sales in 2017.

“More than any previous year, Sunfest vendors unilaterally gave thanks to the town for a well-produced event allowing them to, not only break sales records again, but also some broke all-time records for their individual craft sales profession,” Miller said.

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