The Appeal of SunFest

What motivates students to attend SunFest
Nelly performs at SunFest 2024.
Nelly performs at SunFest 2024.
Ashwin Kishor

While the sun goes down, the band enters onto the stage. The screen behind them glows neon green, illuminating everything. Festival-goers push each other in an attempt to get as close to the front as possible. The lights go down and reggae artist Shaggy runs up on stage with his microphone. Throughout the set, he sings some of his biggest hits, including “Woman Scorn.” The first headliners have started, and SunFest 2024 has begun.


The first day of SunFest took place May 3 at the Intercoastal Waterway in Downtown West Palm Beach. SunFest is an annual music festival in South Florida that attracts people from across the area. Attendees can listen to all genres of music ranging from country to reggae. The headlining performers on the first night were Shaggy, Quiet Riot, Billy Idol, and Nelly. 


“I was most excited to see Shaggy,” band senior Angelique Arfa said. “I love him as an artist, and he’s just such an amazing performer. Seeing him live, he was like a comedian. He had the best show by far.”


Some students came for a chance to see their favorite artists close to where they live. 


“I’ve always listened to him (Nelly) ever since I was a little kid,” vocal sophomore Olive Cleary said. “I wanted to see him from when I saw the lineup.”


SunFest has been in West Palm Beach since 1982, when it became Florida’s largest waterfront music festival. According to SunFest, the music festival has attracted Floridians for decades, with over 85,000 attendees each year. 


“I felt like it (SunFest) was something I had to do before I left,” Arfa said. “Me and my best friends went together. I just wanted to do it to end the year off right and before I go to college to have that memory.” 


Other students have been attending SunFest since they were children. According to Cleary, the “atmosphere,” where she can see friends and have a good time, keeps her coming back.  


“I’ve gone every year for the past seven years for the fun and enjoyable experience,” band freshman Nestor Rivera Lillis said.  


The festival doesn’t stop with just musicians. It includes games like cornhole, multiple food and drink vendors, and contests. Communications sophomore Victoria McGovern attended this year to experience the nostalgia of her childhood. 


“I keep coming because of the memories that I’ve made when I was little (at SunFest), and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started appreciating the music,” McGovern said. “When I was little, I appreciated the festival aspect.” 


Performers range from more mainstream singers like Billy Idol to local bands like Fox Maple Band, who are now stepping foot in the music industry and using SunFest as their starting point. 


“Local bands come to light in SunFest. Everyone wants to see them, and they can show their talents,” Cleary said. “It’s also a good place for mainstream artists to get going again.”


Students don’t only come to see new musicians. Arfa says she “comes for the community” that SunFest has created throughout the years. 


“It really brings together West Palm and the community,” Arfa said. “I definitely saw a lot of Dreyfoos kids there, and it’s something that for years I’ve seen kids go to. It’s almost like a tradition for the kids in our area. It’s just another event that really makes West Palm, West Palm and brings it to life.”

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Sienna Rose Sossi
Sienna Rose Sossi is a first-year staffer and coverage staffer on The Muse. Outside of The Muse, she does debate and golf. She likes to hang out with friends and get to know other people. 
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