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Sunfest - West Palm Beach - Florida's largest music and arts festival

Susan and I have been exhibiting at this event for 10 years or more.  The art section is considered secondary to the music lineup.  But what we have found out over the years is that the crowds are strong and there are many loyal art buyers that attend Sunfest for the art first and the music 2nd.  The event is located on A-1A right on the water.

The jury fee is $30 with the booth fee being $300.  Any corner location is an additional $50 and there are many more requests than available corner spaces.  We are one of the few lucky artists to obtain a corner space.  The music starts on Wednesday with the Art Show beginning Friday at 5:00 pm.  Art show hours are Friday 5 - 10, Sat. 12 - 10 and Sun. 12 - 9.  Yes these are long hours and there are times during the afternoon where the customer traffic can be light.  But once 4:00 comes each day the customer crowds pick up and continue to grow the rest of the evening.  Be prepared to have booth lights for the evening hours, especially from 7 - 10 pm.  Sunfest includes electricity to all exhibitors which is included in the booth fee cost.  They also provide free parking in a local parking garage about a block away for the 3 days.  Looking for a hotel/motel shouldn't be difficult as many options are available and relatively close.  We were able to find a special Sunfest rate at the Holiday Inn for $79/night about 5 miles away.

Set up starts on Friday at 10:00 am and goes on till 4:00.  The set-up is pretty smooth with very little hassle. Sunfest offers art exhibitors a nice dinner at 4:00 pm friday before the art show starts that consists of Lasagne, Salad, italion bread and your choice of water, lemonade, ice tea or beer.  Snacks, fruit and water, ice tea or lemondae are offered throughout the show at the artist oasis.  Btw I love their lemonade and drink it all weekend.   I heard that over 2000 cups were used by the artist and volunteers for the weekend.

Judging starts on Friday around 5:00 pm and the judge does enter your booth and reviews each artist body of work, even asking questions if need be.  Total prize money is $13,500 with overall best of show being $2000.

I counted 160 artist exhibiting.  The category breakdown is:

Glass  -  9 (5%),  Jewlry - 28 (17.5%),  MM 2-D & 3-D  - 22 (13.75%),  Painting - 37 (23%),  Watercolor - 5 (3%),  Woodwork - 9 (5.5%),Pottery/Ceramics - 7 (4%),  Fine Art Sculpture/Metal 10, Drawings/Graphics or Printmaking - 8 (5%) (6.25%),  Fiber/Textiles - 7 (4%), Photography - 11 (6.9%)  and Fine Craft - 7 (4%).

The art show chairman Will White and his vice chairman Phil Barbee are seasoned veterans.  They assemble a solid support staff that will help you any way you need including booth sitting and stocking the artist oasis with snacks, fruit and beverages throughout the event.  Everyone is friendly and prepared.  Will and Phil are on site the entire show and do whatever they can to make sure the artist have a pleasant Sunfest experience.

Sales can be very good at this event. It is my opinion in order to optimize your sales you should have something that is either tropical, contemporary, very unique and a wide price range that are $25 -  originals.  There is some extremely high value, tremendous art being sold here.   You have a mix of young people to wealthy socialites.  It amazes me each year how many young kids buy art.  I don't know where they get the $$$$'s but as long as they spend it on art work, I don't really care.  We even had George Hamilton come to our booth and strike up a conversation with Susan while she was demonstrating.  I did speak to a photographer who has been a loyal exhibitor for 28 years at Sunfest and he stated that sales had been good for him this year.  Another photographer didn't faire as well.  A metal clock sculpture was busy with sales all weekend.  Our neighbor a mixed media artist/painter did very well.  Both Susan and I had another stellar Sunfest.  We sold two originals to a wealthy West Palm Beach socialite and two one-of-a-kind pieces as well as other framed and mounted pieces.  It was the 3rd weekend in a row we had a "home run" art show. There is hope in Florida.

Sunfest concludes on Sunday night at 9:00 pm. with a 20 minute or so spectacular fireworks display on the water.  Susan and I take this time to relax in our booth observing the fireworks.  When the fireworks conclude the tear down begins.  We managed to get all packed up and on our way home by midnight.  Everything went smoothly as Will and Phil and their staff always do a bang up job facilitaing the tear down.  By the time we arrived home it was 3:05 am.  I can't say that we are an advocate for the late Sunday hours, but I know it's just one time a year so we accept it and sleep in till we wake up  which in this years case was past 1:00 pm Monday.

There is plenty of opportunity for artist to make $$$ at Sunfest.  Come to exhibit with an open mind, be prepared for the long hours and all types of art customers.

Views: 1309

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 10, 2012 at 3:35pm

Congrats on having a great show.  Do you feel the patrons come for the music and buy art or vice versa?  Was the music far enough away that it didn't interfere with sales?  

From what you have said,it seems that music and art can coexist when done properly.

Comment by Annette Piper on May 10, 2012 at 5:22pm

Great report Bill - I wanted to be there :)  Glad you had wonderful sales and to hear that there is still hope in Florida.

Comment by Janet Miller on May 10, 2012 at 6:39pm

Great report! Thanks for taking the time.

Comment by Bill Miller/Susan Kelleghan on May 10, 2012 at 7:37pm

There 're are many loyal art customers that come specifically for the art first, then go and watch the music 2nd.  There are 3 music stages Geri,  and yes, you can hear some of the music depending on your art booth location.  Our booth is located approx. in the middle of the show so the music noise is usually not a problem. So in answer to your question Geri, this is one art show where the music and art can coexist and has done so for over 28 years,

Comment by Bill Miller/Susan Kelleghan on May 10, 2012 at 7:44pm

Thank you for the response Annette and Janet.    In the evening Sunfest has alot of energy within the crowd.  Susan and I find it a fun place to be especially since we are right on the intercoastal waterway.  It's a beautiful location.  Btw, for some reason our strongest Florida Art Show sales totals came from the East Coast and St. Petersburg and Tarpon areas.  Usually the southeast gulf coast areas have been the strongest but this year they were average to above average.  Just when you think you have things figured out is the time you better think again if you know what i mean.

Comment by David Olday on May 11, 2012 at 1:30pm

Great review of SunFest.  I was there as well and my glass sold like crazy.  Even the big blue chandelier I created went with no problem.  This was my second year at SunFest and I'm looking forward to hopefully many more there since I made twice what I had the first year.  The only thing that bothered me was the attitude of one of the judges.  When I saw her in my boot I approached her and said "Please let me know if you have any questions about my work."  She replied with a snarky "I've *seen* fused glass before" or words to that effect so I just backed off and let her wander off.  Last years judges were more than happy to talk with me about my work and give me some suggestions.  The rest of the weekend went great.  Booth sitters were very nice, great crowd, great weather, easy load in and out and all the Italian Ices I could eat.

Comment by Terri Brody Elenzweig on May 11, 2012 at 4:13pm

Over the yrs. I have warned to stay away from this show..but after reading these reviews I will apply next year

Comment by David Olday on May 11, 2012 at 6:58pm

To be fair, there were a couple jewelry artists next to me who didn't do so well.  People who bought from me were looking for statement pieces and wanted something unique.  I sold in price points between $15 and a couple hundred dollars.   Oh, and AT&T and Intuit are on my 'I'm Not Happy With You' list.  AT&T's network tanked and the iPhone credit card app from Intuit crashed every time I swiped a card so I had to enter cards manually.

Comment by Geoff Coe on May 11, 2012 at 7:19pm

Thanks, Bill, for this thorough review, and congratulations!  I was on the fence about it this year, but next year I will definitely apply and plan for it.

I was up in Silver Spring MD for a Paragon show, which has been reviewed earlier this week.  Suffice it to say I couldn't have helped but do better at Sunfest.

Comment by Bill Miller/Susan Kelleghan on May 11, 2012 at 7:54pm

Hi David,

I had trouble myself with the credit card machine obtaining a signal so I could capture a sale on a few occassions during the show.  This has been a small problem over the years.  Perhaps the Trump Towers have something to do with that.  Also I could not batch out Sunday's sales totals until I was on the road on I-95.  I agree with you that it is a good idea to have a variety of price points due to the diversity of customer ages.  It is one of the few shows that have many young people under the age of 21, but if they see something they like they have no problem using their parents cc to purchase.


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