Fall into off-season in Ocean City

Annual Sunfest features music, crafts, children's activities and food

September 24, 2005|By Lori Sears | Lori Sears,sun reporter

When's the best time to visit Ocean City? Many would say the middle of summer, in the thick of the season. Others might pick Memorial Day weekend, or the off-season when the crowds have thinned.

Then why, as the temperature is just beginning to break and the school year has just resumed, will nearly 200,000 people crowd the streets, hotels, boardwalk and beaches of Ocean City this weekend?

It's Sunfest, the town's annual four-day festival, which says goodbye to summer and welcomes in the fall and winter seasons. Visitors of all ages will find live entertainment, arts and crafts items for sale, Eastern Shore fare and lots of children's activities. The event, which kicked off Thursday, runs through tomorrow on the city's Inlet parking lot, at the southern end of the boardwalk.

"This is the 31st annual Sunfest," says John Sullivan, special events director for the Recreation and Parks Department, Northside Park. "The idea is [it's] the beginning of our second season."

Sunfest takes place in and around four huge tents on the Inlet lot. Two tents house more than 180 arts and crafts booths. One tent is for entertainment; another is devoted to food.

Musical headliners are country singers Lee Greenwood and Crystal Gayle, who will perform together on stage tonight at 8, inside the entertainment tent. There is seating for 1,750 people.

Outside the large tent, there is an outdoor, standing-room stage for more music. About 5,000 people can enjoy tunes from an array of performers all weekend long.

"At any given time, a band will be playing at Sunfest," says Donna Abbott, Ocean City spokeswoman. "On Saturday, you'll have everything from the doo-wop music of the Diamonds to classic rock by Marylou and the Untouchables. We also have a Beach Boys tribute band, a tribute to Elvis and more."

The live entertainment is free all day until Greenwood and Gayle take the stage tonight. Tickets are $15 to $35.

In addition to music, visitors to Sunfest will find a huge arts and crafts show under two tents. More than 180 vendors will show and sell their handmade wares. In a new feature this year, 12 artists will demonstrate their crafts.

Keep in mind, Abbott says, that what you purchase this fall at Sunfest might turn into the latest fad next year.

"There's always some trend each year, some hot object that everybody seems to pick up," she says. (One recent must-have: weather vanes.)

If all that craft shopping gets you hungry, you can stop at one of the many food stations for Eastern Shore fare.

"You need to leave your calorie counter behind," Abbott says. "Just go for it. You'll find lots of Eastern Shore delicacies. One of the popular attractions is the oyster fritters. And the crab cakes. There's also a gourmet tent with coffees, fudge, nuts, candies, soups and pastry items."

For the kids, an array of activities abounds on the beach. From scarecrow-making and pumpkin-decorating to hayrides and rock-wall climbing, the kids will be busy. There will be inflatables, including slides and a moonbounce, sand art, face-painting and entertainment from Lollipop the clown.

"It's a party," Sullivan says. "There's something for everybody."




Inlet parking lot, south end of the boardwalk in Ocean City.


10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow


free to all events except the Lee Greenwood/Crystal Gayle concert at 8 tonight. Tickets are $15-$35 for a reserved seat and are available on site.


800-OC-OCEAN; ococean.com


Late September is peak time for fall festivals of all sorts. If Ocean City is not for you, here's a sampling of other fests to choose from this weekend:Maryland Renaissance Festival -- Jousting, juggling, magic, music, crafts, games, kids' activities, food, more, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends through Oct. 23 at the festival grounds on Crownsville Road between Routes 450 and 178, Crownsville. $8-$17. Under 7 admitted free. 800-296-7304 or rennfest.com.

Native Plant Sale and Butterfly Festival -- Butterfly-tagging-and-release demonstrations, crafts for sale, tours, more, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. today at Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton. $2-$13. Call 410-557-9466.

St. Mary's County Fair -- Carnival, home arts exhibits, 4-H displays, more, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. today and tomorrow at St. Mary's County Fairgrounds, Routes 5 and 244, Leonardtown. 301-475-8434 or somd.com/smcfair for fees.

Westminster Fallfest -- Rides, games, crafts, live entertainment, more, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. today and noon-6 p.m. tomorrow at City Park, Longwell Avenue, Westminster. Free. 410-876-1313 or westminsterfall fest.com.

Fiddlers Convention -- Live music, beginning at 10 a.m. today and 9 a.m. tomorrow, on Main Street in Berlin. Free. 410-641-4775 or berlin mdcc.org.

Apple Festival -- Apple goodies, hayrides, scarecrow-making, pumpkin-painting, music, more, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today at Piney Run Park, Martz Road, Sykesville. Free; park entrance $4-$6 per car. 410-795-6043.

Fall Harvest Festival and Craft Show -- Apple-bobbing, crafts, music, dancing, clogging, hayrides, more, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. today and tomorrow at Steppingstone Museum, 461 Quaker Bottom Road, Havre de Grace. $5. 410-939-2299 or stepping stonemuseum.org.

Korean Festival -- Cultural performances, Korean cuisine, prizes, more, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. today at 31 Hopkins Plaza. Free. 410-382-9685.

Lori Sears

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