“So how many SunFests have you been to now?” my editor asked last week, and I had to think about it for a minute, because it’s been a long time, and also because journalists are not known for their excellent math skills.
The answer? 2013 marks the 11th SunFest I’ve covered — the ninth where I will have spent all five days shuffling about a mile each way between stages, all the while shaking hands, looking at art, twirling my skirt to the music and trying not to get run over by people on Segways.
All of which makes me a SunFest expert. I don’t have, like, a certificate or anything, but I’m pretty confident about my claims. So I’ve got some advice culled from more than a decade of blistered feet, wet hair from seasonal torrential downpours, frantic “Where did you go?” calls from my husband, ripping plastic bags full of info on products I’ll never buy and the nagging feeling that I’m missing something really cool on that other stage I’m not at.
So I give to you the Official Leslie Gray Streeter Guide To Surviving SunFest, full of useful info that will make yours a more enjoyable, less stressful and blistery festival. I promise. After all, I’m the expert. Again, no certificate or anything. You’ll have to take my word on that.
TIP #1: HAVE A PLAN. Festivals can feel free-flowing and loosey-goosey — it’s all that music and skirt-twirling — but all that looseness can turn overwhelmingly stressful if you leave too much to chance. You miss stuff. You’re late to all the bands you want to see. You’re spending all day with your head down in a schedule going “Where are we supposed to be at next?” I’ve learned that it’s best to have at least a vague semblance of a plan before you even enter the gates. Check the schedule online before you leave the house, or have it on your smart phone, and figure out what bands you want to see, and which ones you can live without should your favorites start late (it does happen.) You can still be spontaneous, but you have a plan to work from.
TIP #2: COMFY SHOES ARE YOUR FRIENDS: Some SunFesters are strictly casual, and their shorts and sneakers tell that story. But others are there to style and profile. To look cute. To chat folks up and make sure that people they only see once a year know they’ve been doing fine. And that often translates into shoes that hurt when you stand up, let alone traipse between stages. Every year about this time I go through my footwear and make sure I have at least two pairs of cute, walk-worthy flats that will get me through SunFest both fashionably and foot-happy.
TIP #3: CHARGE YOUR PHONE: This seems self-explanatory, but with all the phone pics, Tweeting and “No, by the middle barge. No … not that one. THE MIDDLE BARGE”-iness of it all, you’re gonna need to have your phone at its full power. Because you don’t want to miss a thing.
TIP#4: SUNSCREEN AND A HAT ARE YOUR FRIENDS, TOO: I’m not sure why, but SunFest Saturday always seems to be the hottest of the five days. It’s also the longest. You don’t want to invest all that time and money into scheduling and cute shoes and then get sunburned. Sun burns are not cute.
TIP #5: DON’T CARRY A BUNCH OF STUFF YOU DON’T NEED: One of the surest bets at SunFest is that at every turn, there will be a smiling person standing just ahead of you, arms outstretched, wanting to give you something. Maybe it’s something you need, like a paper fan or sunscreen samples. Maybe it’s postcards and fliers for restaurants you’ll never go to, or key chains for banks you don’t have an account at, or other manner of tchotchke that’s gonna get left, get in your way or sit in your car. Unless you need the bag to carry things you actually want, politely say “No thanks” or take a minute to sit down every few hours and go through your graft to get rid of what you don’t want. It’ll save you a lot of clutter, weighed-down bags and annoyance.
When: Today through Sunday
Where: The Flagler Drive waterfront, downtown West Palm Beach
The big acts: Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Cliff, Cheap Trick, Barenaked Ladies, Ed Sheeran, Gary Clark Jr., Phillip Phillips and more.
Tickets: $22 to $37 for daily admission.
More info: SunFest.com and at 800-SUNFEST (786-3378).