By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(Sept. 19, 2019) The 45th annual Sunfest celebration begins today, Thursday, Sept. 19, and continues until Sunday in Ocean City.
The festival, which marks the end of the summer season, will take place in the inlet parking lot under large tents featuring more than 300 arts, crafts and food vendors as well as musical performances.
“It’s such a great family tradition event for the town, and being around four and a half decades … you know, it’s popular and people love it,” Ocean City Special Events Director Frank Miller said. “The music, the food, the crafts, the entertainment … It’s one last season hurrah for the town and for the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so we’re very excited.”
Last year’s Sunfest saw the largest crowds in the event’s history with more than 268,000 people attending despite a rainy Sunday.
“Even with bad weather Sunfest is a great event to come to,” Miller said. “And that’s why we put up the large tents, because we know being on the beach in September, you always have the threat of some type of weather. So even if it’s windy or if it’s raining a bit, you can come here and you can still enjoy the event.”
The event will kick off with an opening ceremony at 10:15 a.m. today. The Stephen Decatur High School band, choir and cheerleaders will join local and state officials for the opening ceremony along with the Ocean City Police Department Color Guard.
Following the ceremony, Rick K & The Allnighters will launch the live entertainment in the indoor Comcast Entertainment Pavilion at 10:45 a.m. The Recreation Dancers will take the stage at 12:30 p.m. followed by Mike Hines and The Look at 2:30 p.m., local favorite Teenage Rust at 4:30 p.m., and ending the night with a ticketed concert by “Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience,” at 8 p.m.
On the outside stage, a performance from The Glass Onion Band will take place at 11:30 a.m. Following will be The Colliders at 1:30 p.m., Rick K & The Allnighters at 3:30 p.m. and finishing the free performances will be Front Page News at 5:30 p.m. and a performance by DJ Kutt at 6 p.m.
Three ticketed performances will start at 8 p.m. each night, Thursday through Saturday, beginning with “Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience.” Tickets cost $10-$25.
“If you’ve ever seen what Michael Jackson used to do on stage and the way he would dance and the way he would interact with the crowd … obviously it’s not Michael Jackson … but this is that same style of entertainment that he produced back in the 80s and 90s, and it’s done so well,” Miller said.
On Friday, country music fans will gather at the inlet to catch Granger Smith perform. Tickets cost $25-$45. Then Saturday, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will finish off the event on the Sunfest stage. Tickets cost $25-$45.
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. today through Friday.
Purchase tickets by calling Ticketmaster at 800-551-7328 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the festival grounds until they are sold out.
In addition to music, food and purchasing merchandise from the 300-plus vendors, including 30 food vendors, demonstrations will be set up throughout the venue.
“The food vendors are terrific,” Miller said. “We always have a great selection of food. It’s a mixture of Eastern Shore food and East Coast food. But you got to make sure that you eat really light the day before, so when you come to the festival, you can take on those calories of all that great festival food.”
The Eastern Shore International Mountain Bike Association will have a fat-tire bike demo, where guests can take a fat-tired bike out to the sand and ride on the beach.
“Sunfest always has demand for vendors and we typically have a lot of the same vendors, but they’re coming up with new products and new versions of what they sell,” Miller said. “I love to see what’s new and interesting. Some vendors will be sold out within two days of the four-day event.”
For children, there will be hayrides on the beach, inflatables to jump and play in and sand art, for a small fee.
Sunfest hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 19-21, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22. The event will take place rain or shine.
Because parking is limited, visitors should consider taking the resort 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 will pick visitors up from the convention center on 40th Street, where they can park for free, and ride directly to Sunfest for $3 all day.
The Boardwalk tram will also be in service during Sunfest with fares running $4 each way. For more information on bus fares, call Ocean City Transportation at 410-723-1606.
While at Sunfest, visit the Official Event Merchandise Tent located just inside the main entrance at the inlet parking lot. Official 2019 Sunfest T-shirts are available in youth and adult sizes through 4XL.
Visit http://ococean.com/sunfest for the full schedule of Sunfest entertainment or call 800-626-2326. For more information about Sunfest, call the Ocean City Recreation & Parks Department at 410-250-0125, or toll-free, 1-800-626-2326.
In conjunction with the event, the 41st annual Sunfest Kite Festival will take place Sept. 19-22, on the beach between Third and Sixth streets, bringing four days of kite-flying to the resort.
There will be various kite displays such as giant flying dragons, a Pegasus, winged pigs, a mermaid and various animals.
Kite fliers can participate in People’s Choice for best kite, themed mass ascensions, and record attempts. Ocean City holds the record for most Trilobites in the sky.
Candy drops, where candy falls from a large kite, will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at noon.
Spectator participation (adults and children) is encouraged in games and activities scheduled throughout the festival include The Running of the Bols races, giant bubble arts, candy drops, Boardwalk dancing, free sport kite lessons and voting in the People’s Choice award.
Once again, the kite festival will host a “Kids Kite Fly.” At 1 p.m. this Saturday, free kites will be handed out to the first 60 children who show up. Only children between the ages of 5-12 are eligible for the free kite. Professionals will help the children assemble and launch the kite right on the beach at Fifth Street.
Call 410-289-7855 or visit www.kiteloft.com for more information.
The annual Park Place Jewelers Treasure Hunt will also take place during the festivities, located in front of Park Place Jewelers on the Boardwalk at Third Street on Saturday and Sunday.
The Sunfest Treasure Hunt on the beach event will take place Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. For a $20 donation to the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea, the first 100 to sign up each day will get the chance to dig in the sand for prizes ranging from gift certificates to local restaurants and retailers, to diamonds, gemstones and additional jewelry. The main prize is a pair of diamond earrings.
“There’s no shovels or tools, you dig with your hands,” Park Place Jewelers owner Jill Ferrante said. “What is buried in the sand is a black velvet pouch, which has a number inside of it and that number corresponds to prizes we have in the store. There’s no actual jewelry buried in the sand because every year there’s at least one or two pieces that people can’t find.”
Register for the treasure hunt at either of Park Place’s locations, on the Boardwalk at Third Street or in the Park Place Jewelers Plaza on Route 50 in West Ocean City at any time.
Participants must be at least 18 years old. Treasure hunters should meet in front of the Boardwalk store 30 minutes before the dig for a briefing on the rules.
Participants can wear gloves, but may not use shovels or buckets. The hunt takes place rain or shine.
For more information, call Park Place Jewelers at 410-289-6500 or 410-213-9220.