(Sept. 14, 2018) The 44th annual Sunfest celebration begins Thursday, Sept. 20, and continues until Sunday, Sept. 23, 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.
More than 235,000 guests attended Sunfest in 2017. The year before that, the event brought in a record-breaking 251,000 visitors.
“Sunfest started as the Save Six for September event,” Ocean City Special Events Director Frank Miller said. “As that event grew and became more popular and had more vendors and adding music, they ended up moving down to the inlet parking lot. There’s a long history for this event but in all of its years, it’s always been food, crafts and entertainment. That hasn’t changed in the 44 years this town has been producing this event.”
The event will kick off with an opening ceremony at 10:15 a.m. 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 The Pixies Three at 2:30 p.m., local favorite Teenage Rust at 4:30 p.m., and ending the night with a ticketed concert by Forever Tina, a Tina Turner tribute artist, at 8 p.m.
On the outside stage, a performance from Randy Lee Ashcraft & The Saltwater Cowboys will take place at 11:30 a.m. Following will be Bob Lougheed & The Memphis Mafia at 1:30 p.m., Rick K & The Allnighters at 3:30 p.m. and finishing the free performances will be Vinyl Rhino at 5:30 p.m.
Three ticketed performances will start at 8 p.m. each night, Thursday through Saturday, with Tina Turner tribute artist Forever Tina on Thursday. Tickets cost $10-$15.
“She’s a very, very good [Tina Turner] lookalike and she puts on a fabulous show,” Miller said. “So, if you love Tina Turner, the Forever Tina tribute is an awesome show to see on Thursday night. This gives you that wonderful genre of music, presented just like Tina Turner would present it.”
Next Friday, country music fans will gather at the inlet to catch The Cadillac Three, an up-and-coming country band, perform. Tickets cost $25-$45. Then, next Saturday, Daughtry will take the Sunfest stage. Daughtry’s show is sold out.
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.
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 unique items from the 300-plus vendors, demonstrations will be set up throughout the venue. 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 and sand art for a small fee.
“Not only is this a wonderful Ocean City tradition, it’s a family friendly experience,” Miller said. “Mom and dad can come and do their shopping, buy their food, enjoy music with the family but also for the kids we have kid’s activities.
“We also have a gourmet tent to pick up gourmet snacks and so forth,” he continued. “We have a demonstration artist tent to see artists working on their craft on site. We also sell beer, wine and now craft beer.”
Sunfest hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 20-22, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23. 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 $3 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 2018 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 40th annual Sunfest Kite Festival will take place Sept. 20-23, on the beach between Third and Sixth streets, bringing four days of kite-flying to the resort.
There will be various themed kite displays such as “Mythical Creatures” which last year featured over a dozen giant flying dragons, a Pegasus, a hippocampus, winged pigs, a mermaid and a 100-foot-long Chinese dragon sunbathing on the beach. 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 is dropped from a large kite, will take place both Saturday and Sunday.
Spectator participation (adults and children) is encouraged in games and activities scheduled throughout the festival such as: 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.
This year Kitefest will host a “Kids Kite Fly.” At 1 p.m. next 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.