Forget the beads. Saturday’s unintended, but inescapable, fashion statement at SunFest: Black toes.
After three days of sometimes torrential rains, the hoards that turned out to satisfy their collective, pent-up desire to hear music on the waterfront quickly stepped onto squishy soil that even the day’s radiant sunshine couldn’t dry fast enough.
As mud turned the toes and feet of thousands of festival-goers black, vendors were hoping the crowds would do the same for their balance sheets.
“One bad day, but three in a row?” said Jimmy Gomez, as he stood by the grill at one of the eateries run by San Francisco Puffs & Stuff. “It’s been brutal.”
People who lined up to get a plate of their pineapple chicken Saturday were a welcome relief. The question, he said, is whether the brisk business on Saturday and — hopefully — Sunday, the festival’s finale, would be enough.
“I’d say business is off by 60 percent,” said Gomez, who has been serving up food at SunFest for 11 years. “Honestly, I’m hoping to break even.”
David Belcher, who was pulling out pies out of the makeshift ovens at nearby Ralph’s Pizza, voiced similar concerns. “The first few days it was real slow. Nobody was here,” he said.
While Saturday was a pleasant turnaround, Mother Nature picked a particularly bad year for food vendors, who travel the country to various festivals. Unlike past years, when vendors paid a percentage of their earnings to SunFest, this year they had to pay a flat rate.
The rains and the fee structure produced a double-whammy, vendors said.
Gomez said he was looking at the bright side. “It could have been worse, believe me,” he said. “Early in the week, they predicted rain for five straight days.”
Sharon Shortt, who co-founded San Francisco Puffs & Stuff in 1982 and now handles all of the food vendors at SunFest, said there have been years when it’s been worse — far worse.
Having worked at SunFest from its inception 31 years ago, she remembers all of them.
The worst year?
“1990,” she said. “There were monsoon rains. The stage collapsed.”
When you run outdoor festivals you learn to deal with the vagaries of Mother Nature. “We’ve been spoiled the last couple of years,” she said. Of this week’s rains: “That’s show biz.”
She praised SunFest officials who worked to make sure the vendors were back in business quickly after the skies cleared. First, they dumped sand in the mud puddles. When more rain came, they brought in hay.
“I go to events all over the country and no one has its act together like SunFest,” she said. “If I won the lottery, I’d still be here. I love SunFest.”