Last night was my first time going to SunFest. Yes, I'm aware of the oddity of this since this was the festival's 30th year. But, hey there's a first time for everything. Needless to say, I learned a lot about SunFest -- and myself -- after my first go-round.
So, for all you SunFest virgins, here's a bit of a survival guide.
5. Don't worry about seeing the stage.
Listen, I know we all want to have the full "concert experience" and get all close up. Don't. No, I'm seriously warning you. Don't do it. It's a waste of time. There are thousands of people at SunFest all sharing that same desire, and they will fight tooth and nail to get it. Add in a lot of booze to the mix and it could get ugly. Plus, it's South Florida, so it's hot and sweaty out. Who wants to be packed in like a can of sardines all while having your skin sticking to the people around you? Not me. Instead, bring a blanket or some pop-up chairs, find a nice, cozy spot in the back, and just enjoy the music. Ninety percent of the time, the band isn't really doing anything that cool onstage anyway.
4. Leave before or during the headlining band's last song.
Nine out of ten times, you know what the band is going to close or encore its set with. Do you really need to see them play it? Sure, we know you're that band's biggest fan. But have you ever tried to escape a music festival with a few thousand people through one tiny exit? It's hell on Earth. And if you really can't live without missing that last song, see above for advice. Note to SunFest: Fix the exit gate situation. It's way too small.
3. Bring directions.
Despite the music festival's large attendance -- and 30-year run -- the City of West Palm isn't too keen on directing people to it. From getting off I-95 to walking down Clematis Street, there wasn't one sign indicating where SunFest is happening. Do yourself a favor and look at a map before driving/walking around downtown WPB aimlessly.
2. You don't need to park extremely close.
Downtown West Palm Beach isn't that big of a stretch. It's basically a few blocks of bars and restaurants along Clematis. So when the SunFest website shares with you all this great, wonderful parking that's so close to the festival and it's only $15, ignore it. Get some exercise and save a few bucks. The walk is really not that terrible.
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1. It's really easy to enjoy SunFest for free.
And what we mean is that it's really easy to listen to the music at SunFest for free. By no means are we encouraging anyone to sneak in. However, there is a slew of restaurants with outdoor seating along the perimeter of SunFest, and the music is really loud. If you've got the money for the ticket, go enjoy the hell out of SunFest. But if you're working on a budget, grab a slice from the pizza shop next to the front gate.
SunFest takes place from May 2 to 6 in West Palm Beach. Click here for full schedule and parking information.