The Loss Of Sunfest Is Hurting West Palm Beach

Sunfest should be happening right now, but like every other festival IN THE WORLD Sunfest is not happening and the effects are paralyzing to the city.

“It’s just weird for everyone, the people who work here, the volunteers, everyone. It’s usually like a big family reunion every year,” says executive Paul Jamieson. "SunFest is, for everyone in the community, when you get to come together and celebrate, and now we need it more than ever. That’s who we really feel bad for, the people that we give this celebration to, and now it’s not there.”

And there are a lot of celebration-starved SunFest fans out there. The loss of SunFest isn’t just about missing shows, eating arepas, window-shopping the mega yachts moored on the waterfront or even joining the fun on the three floating oasis party barges. Its absence means a massive loss to the hotels, parking facilities, restaurants and bars that rely on the reliable crowds that appear downtown. SunFest is still tallying its lossses, and its economic impact to West Palm Beach puts it at around $15 million-$20 million annually.

“It really is a difficult thing to quantify, but the impact is obvious,” says Downtown Development Authority director Raphael Clemente. “It’s immediately evident in how much more activity there is, not just the event itself but what’s going on outside, from the bike taxi guys and the Uber drivers. The streets are packed, the restaurants are packed, the hotels are full. And I think that anyone who’s thinking about this rationally knows you’re not gonna snap your fingers and be back to normal. It might be a slow change, over time, until we get back to that.”

Photo by Getty Images

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