Sunfest, Ocean City's farewell-to-summer bash, starts Thursday and continues through the weekend at the inlet and around town with entertainment, food, crafts, sky divers and a vintage airplane show.
Some shows may strive to present a slick agenda, but Sunfest strives for homey activities such as treasure hunts, talent shows and sing-alongs that are lovingly packaged together by Sunfest chairman Pete Richardson.
It's just what you would expect from someone who calls himself "Mr. Sunfest." In 1978, Mr. Richardson took what had started as a small neighborhood hamburger and hot-dog party and turned it into an extravaganza that has a budget of about $145,000 this year.
In the early years, Mr. Richardson said he mapped out the festival on a brown paper bag. "I went from a brown bag to a plot put out by the planning department," he says.
Mr. Richardson, 83, is proud of the show that brought about 300,000 people to town last year. "We can't get any bigger," he says.
Four Freshmen on stage
Regional entertainment fills out most of the Sunfest schedule, but this year the Four Freshmen will be on stage for four performances throughout the weekend.
The Four Freshmen was formed 45 years ago at Butler University in Indiana, and are credited with influencing music groups such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Beach Boys and Chicago. Although the last founding member left the group last year, the quartet still performs the same smooth, jazzy style as the original group.
The Four Freshmen first take to the stage at noon Friday with other shows at 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Returning to Sunfest this year are two Mummers string bands from Philadelphia and the First U.S. Army Band from Fort Meade.
The Mummers, who strut their stuff each year at Philadelphia's New Year's parade, will be performing at Sunfest in all their brightly colored finery.
The Italian American String Band will lead the festivities by marching in the 9:30 opening parade on Thursday morning. The parade begins at 13th Street with a boardwalk train sporting passengers such as Mayor Roland Powell, other city officials and local royalty such as Fire Prevention Queen Kelly Marie Allen and Little Fire Prevention Queen Ashley Eschenburg.
The public is invited to hop aboard the train at 13th Street and ride to a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at the boardwalk and South Division Street.
Following the opening ceremony, the Italian American String Band will perform an 11:30 a.m. concert in the entertainment tent. String band fans can also attend the Fralinger String Band concert Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Joe Quattrone of the Fralinger String Band said about 45 members will be performing in full costume, which this year is a "bad boys' motorcycle gang theme."
Mr. Quattrone says his group, which was first organized in 1914, plays concerts all over the country.
Later Saturday, the First U.S. Army Band will take to the stage. Performing at Sunfest each September is a sentimental favorite of the band since it is their last outdoor concert of the year, says David Ratliff, commander and band leader.
Chief Warrant Officer Ratliff says crowds get excited by the patriotic music and military uniforms.
And the audience doesn't always stay in their seats. "Usually somebody starts dancing when we do big band numbers," he says.
Going for a record
Sky divers from the Skydiving Center of Greater Washington in California, Md., will attempt to break a state record this weekend. The group first tried to set a record for the most number of people in a formation at Springfest in May.
It was unsuccessful, so this time the sky divers are going to try for two formations in a single jump.
About 20 sky divers will also set up pattern formations in the sky, including circles, daisies, wedges and diamonds. The sky divers will perform warm-up jumps on Thursday, and then starting Friday and winding up Sunday, they will make about 12 attempts at the record.
Sunfest fair-goers will be able to see most of the action, starting with the initial free fall before the parachutes open.
Also, daredevils of all ages will have an opportunity to take a trial jump with the sky divers for $159 a person.
Vintage World War II planes will also be flying the skies above the inlet. Those who want a closer look at the planes can take a free shuttle bus from the inlet lot to the airport.
At the airport, visitors will be able to see a P-51 Mustang, B-25 Mitchell, R4D-5 (DC 3), PBY-6A Catalina and the B-17-G Flying Fortress. The planes will be flying in from the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y., about 3 p.m. Friday.
In addition, local owners of vintage planes plan to participate in the event, says airport manager Don Stewart. Tickets for the airplane show will be available at 10 a.m. Saturday at the airport at a cost of $5 for adults, $3 for teens and free for 12 and under.