| Palm Beach Post
WEST PALM BEACH — And the bands didn’t play on.
SunFest organizers Wednesday ended efforts to host even an altered version of the annual waterfront event. Despite a months-long attempt to devise a pandemic-safe music festival, in the end bands couldn’t drum up the enthusiasm to risk performing.
“We have seen a growing uncertainty from artists about putting their fans into a large music festival setting,” said Paul Jamieson, SunFest executive director. “Given this feedback, we have determined that we cannot go forward for 2021. SunFest without enough notable musical artists simply is not SunFest, and we believe we owe our fans more than that.”
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The multi-day, multi-stage extravaganza for almost 40 years has been West Palm Beach’s biggest annual event, drawing tens of thousands of people to the downtown waterfront.
The 2020 SunFest was called off last March as the coronavirus took off. Now again, center stage will go to the pandemic, which has taken more than 25,000 lives in Florida and 425,000 nationwide.
Amid high numbers of new cases daily and a slower-than-expected roll-out of vaccines, the city this month suspended its Saturday GreenMarkets and other events until at least Jan. 31. Months of mask-wearing, social-distancing and outdoor-dining campaigns failed to stop the spread.
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SunFest organizers forged tentative plans for a scaled-down, spread-out return from pandemic purgatory from April 29 to May 2. There would be two fenced concert stages instead of three, with socially distanced seating for audiences, in addition to multiple free concerts, art shows and other events that would stretch along Clematis and other downtown streets.
“While we knew that hosting a traditional SunFest would be challenging, we believed that the possible reward for our fans was worth the attempt,” Jamieson said. “We were driven by the idea that our fans needed something to look forward to.”
But it was not to be.
The nonprofit SunFest of Palm Beach County, Inc. put out the word that concert fans instead could look forward to SunFest 2022.
“We share everyone’s disappointment, just as we share the concerns that so many people have expressed. We look forward to seeing everyone on the waterfront again in 2022,” Jamieson said in a release.
Fans who purchased a ticket for 2020 will now have an extra incentive to continue to roll over the same ticket to 2022, he added: People who are holding onto a ticket from 2020 will be able to bring one friend for free next year, he said. SunFest 2022 is scheduled for April 28 to May 1.
The SunFest organization includes 23 board members, 25 committees, 2,000 volunteers, four year-round staffers and 80 corporate sponsors. The event receives funding from the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council, through the Palm Beach County Cultural Council and also is sponsored by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council.
For information about SunFest or the ticket roll-over plan, visit www.SunFest.com or call 561-659-5980.