SunFest, West Palm Beach’s largest annual event, kicks off Wednesday — less than three weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing made outdoor event organizers across the country rethink safety procedures.
To ensure safety at the music and arts festival, SunFest organizers are restricting bag sizes to 12 inches high by 12 inches long by 6 inches wide. Melissa Sullivan, spokeswoman for SunFest, said Friday that many music festivals have similar bag restrictions and that SunFest probably should have already had a maximum bag size regardless of what took place in Boston.
“One of the things we realized is that we didn’t have size restrictions on bags,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been working with (police) officials and we thought that would be one more measure we could take from a standpoint of, does anyone need to bring in anything larger than that? Probably not.”
The accused Boston Marathon bombers allegedly detonated pressure cookers that were placed inside backpacks, killing three people and injuring 264.
A 12-by-12-by-6-inch bag is smaller than a traditional school backpack and more in line with a shoulder bag. The Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens restricts bags to 6-inches-by-6 inches, Sullivan said.
SunFest attendees will be allowed to bring chairs to the event but the chairs can’t be in a bag at the checkpoint. The bag size limit will allow people to bring essentials, including a hat, sunscreen and cell phones, he said.
“We don’t think it’s any grave concern because no one usually brings things in that large,” Sullivan said. “We are just wanting to make sure the word is out because we don’t want to frustrate people and have them go back to their car.”
“Bag checks will be increased and there will be added measures, a lot of which we can’t discuss for public safety reasons,” he said.
West Palm Beach Police Capt. Tony Spatara shied away from the comparisons of SunFest to the Boston Marathon, saying the bag sizes should have been limited in the past.
“It’s an improvement we came up with and we think it will continue to be the safe and fun event it’s been for 31 years,” Spatara said. “We always ask people to be aware of their surroundings, regardless of whether or not you’re at a major event. It’s just a personal safety message that we want to get out.… I can’t think of any significant incidents ever at SunFest, and I’ve been here 17 years.”
Despite the bag restriction, SunFest patrons can return to their cars during the festival and regain reentry with a hand stamp. For advanced parking information visit sunfest.com/parking.