For the first 90 minutes SunFest looked like a wash, but the skies cleared up just in time to turn the opening night of West Palm Beach’s largest annual event into a success.
The five-day arts and music festival kicked off with a moderate downpour keeping most fans away.
That didn’t stop Shatterglass, a band out of Fort Lauderdale, from opening the festival.
“We’re the foot soldiers that went up first,” said guitarist Derek Dilberian, who called it “Rainfest.”
The band said no more than 50 people watched most of the show, although they could hear some fans hanging out by the waterfront pavilion.
“When I said ‘let me hear you in the back’ I heard some good screamers,” said lead singer Eric Matzuga. “There were people back there.”
A pair of teenagers sat through Shatterglass’ rain-drenched show, mainly to get the best spot possible for The Smashing Pumpkins, the final act of the night.
“Shatterglass was good, so it was worth it,” said Heidi Kiziah, a 17-year-old student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
Kiziah said she had to pour water out of her shoes once the rain subsided around 6:30 p.m. She and her friend, Christina Miller, said they don’t regret it because of their prime spot for The Smashing Pumpkins.
“They’re still going strong,” said Miller, an 18-year-old student of Dwyer, of the ’90s rock band.
Josh Long, a 38-year-old Jupiter resident, said SunFest is his favorite event in South Florida and he only had a ticket for today, so he sucked it up and brought rain gear.
“I’m married with kids so I have limited opportunities to go out,” Long said. “Nothing was going to stop me from going.”
Fans began trickling in on time for Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, who hit the stage at 7:30 p.m., and a light drizzle picked back up again around 8:30 p.m.
SunFest officials did not have a crowd size estimate. On its website today, SunFest posted “60 percent chance of rain, 100 percent chance for fun.”
“When you plan all year, you like to see a clear forecast, but it did clear up and the crowds came out in good, strong numbers,” said SunFest spokeswoman Melissa Sullivan. “I am really happy with the vibe and the energy and the excitement around two really great shows. It doesn’t seem like the rain kept anyone away. It maybe delayed their arrival.”
John Bauley, 35, of Boynton Beach had a five-day pass and said he checked constant weather updates on his phone before deciding to make the trek to see The Magnetic Zeros.
“I really wanted to see them so we kind of checked the weather app and decided to drive,” Bauley said.
Alexa Presciti, 21, of Palm Beach Gardens, volunteered early in the evening and was ready to rock for The Smashing Pumpkins.
“They ended up with a pretty good turnout considering the rain,” Presciti said. “I like this year’s lineup; it’s very rock-ish. Last year it seemed like there was a lot of hip-hop. This year, with Smashing Pumpkins and Offspring they brought back the oldies.”
While festival-goers for the opening night of SunFest escaped relatively unscathed, there are more thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow night, which includes Big Sean and Train.
Sullivan said the weather “is so unpredictable and it’s nothing we have control over.”
“We have to go on as usual,” Sullivan said. “We got every single performance off as scheduled tonight and there was a time when you didn’t know if that would happen, so that’s a great thing.”