SunFest is here, that annual outdoor celebration of music, beer, art, beer, and sun on the waterfront in downtown West Palm Beach.
Except this year, it looks like the sun might not show up much. Chance of precipitation is predicted to be a steady 70 percent for the rest of the week.
This can’t happen. It violates the laws of common understanding to have a SunFest without the sun. How are people supposed to get in the spirit “five days of fun in the sun” while self-humidifying under a rain poncho as they listen to a soggy version of Smashing Pumpkins?
Something needs to be done. We need a remedy for this environmental disrespect, if not for this year, then at least for the occasional rainy SunFests in our future.
Too much is at stake. The economic impact of SunFest is about $10 million a year.
We can’t leave this up to the vagaries of meteorology. One option would be to rename the festival something that doesn’t raise expectations too high. Maybe “WeatherFest” — a name that would cover everything from golf-ball-sized hail to cloudless blue skies.
But a better option would be to start thinking like South Florida sports teams.
Yes, I’m talking about turning to the state and local government for a handout.
There’d be no weather drama with SunFest if we had a taxpayer-subsidized canopy roof on Flagler Drive.
The Miami Marlins finagled a new stadium paid for mostly with public money by claiming the team needed a roof to keep out the rain.
And the impetus for the Miami Dolphins getting state lawmakers to consider subsidizing $350 million of renovations to SunLife Stadium was one rainy Super Bowl.
It was in 2007, the last one held in Miami, and the only Super Bowl played in rainy conditions.
It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but it was wet enough to send some ticket holders home at halftime rather than to continue being drizzled on in their $600 seats.
Miami would never get another Super Bowl, the team argued, unless the stadium had a canopy roof. And public money should be used to subsidize that because of all the economic benefit that another Super Bowl would bring to the area.
So state lawmakers were asked to approve an extra $90 million in subsidies to the team over the next 30 years, while Miami-Dade would be asked to come up with another $289 million from tourist tax money.
That’s a lot of money to make it somewhat more likely to get the occasional Super Bowl game or international soccer match. The deal still requires approval by the Florida Legislature and support from Miami-Dade voters in a referendum to be held later this month.
By contrast with the Super Bowl, SunFest is an event that isn’t shared with a couple dozen other cities. It’s held in West Palm Beach every year. And it’s a lot harder playing the electric guitar in the rain than it is playing football.
Like the Super Bowl, SunFest also draws people from far and wide.
The festival ticket buyers this year are coming from 34 states and more than a hundred cities outside Palm Beach County.
Sure, building a canopy roof over SunFest would be very expensive. But probably worth every penny to the people who show up on Flagler Drive this week.