As the five-day gathering known as SunFest prepares to sprawl out along the waterfront in downtown West Palm Beach, organizers have packed the music schedule with what executive director Paul Jamieson calls the "densest," "broadest" and "costliest" lineup in years.
Topping the heap of 50 performers are electronica siren Ellie Goulding, blue-collar cowboy Kid Rock, grunge veterans Alice in Chains and a certain slow-jam heartthrob who was a relative unknown the last time his hips gyrated on a SunFest stage in 2007: Robin Thicke.
"No one knew who Robin Thicke was when we first had him," Jamieson recalls of the pop singer's pre-twerking career. "People primarily knew him as the son of Alan Thicke. Now, it's flip-flopped to where Alan is known as the father of Robin Thicke."
When the ubiquitous Thicke mounts the stage on Thursday night, he will be among many musical and family-style diversions SunFest organizers have blocked out for the first two days of the festival. Stronger single-day and festival pass presales — up 27 percent and 55 percent over 2013, respectively, Jamieson says — swayed organizers to jam bigger acts into Wednesday's and Thursday's lineups, which will also include Kid Rock and California-bred indie-rockers Cake.
Thursday's bill is anchored by Thicke on the Ford Stage and reggae-rock stalwarts Sublime With Rome on the Tire Kingdom Stage.
"You should skip work, really. Just take a vacation. This is a national music festival that will be in your back yard," Jamieson says. "The biggest complaint I've heard this year is, 'I don't know what day I can miss.'"
Here's a guide to finding the best entertainment in your back yard.
There are many options. The WPB Downtown Development Authority will offer free trolleys to shuttle visitors along its Clematis Route (Kravis Center, CityPlace and the Waterfront). Those biking to SunFest can drop off their rides for free with volunteer valets at North Clematis Street near Centennial Fountain. Drivers can expect to pay between $10 and $20 for parking garages and lots, including Banyan Garage, Evernia Garage, City Hall Lot and the City Center Garage. Downtown metered street parking will be free on Sunday.
Avoid these roads
Multiple roads feeding into the waterfront will be blocked during the festival. Flagler Drive northbound will be closed between Lakeview Avenue and Banyan Boulevard. So will Flagler Drive southbound between Banyan and Lakeview; Narcissus Avenue between Datura Street and Evernia Street; North Clematis Street between Lantana Avenue and Flagler; and Evernia Street between Narcissus and Flagler. More limited-access roads and dock closures are available on SunFest's website.
An app for that
Why not take in the splendor of SunFest with a guide in your pocket? Download the SunFest Official 2014 app (for iPhone and Android), and follow the chatter with @SunFestFL on Twitter and @SunFest on Instagram.
Locals and natives
The number of South Florida-bred bands has dwindled this year, Jamieson says, to make room for a growing demand for regional and national faces on the bill. Still, expect to find still-growing West Palm Beach pop-rockers Surfer Blood (6:30-7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Tire Kingdom Stage), along with Fort Lauderdale's rising R&B singer B. Smyth (8-8:30 p.m. Friday, FPL Stage) and West Palm Beach native Brooke Eden (4:10-5:10 p.m. Saturday, FPL Stage).
Also on tap: the infectious electronic beats of Miami's Afrobeta (12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday, FPL Stage), Lake Worth reggae act Spred the Dub (1:15-2 p.m. Saturday, Ford Stage) and jazzy jam-rock local Bobby Lee Rodgers (7:15-8:30 p.m. Friday, Tire Kingdom Stage).
On the menu
More than 30 food vendors will dot the waterfront, with restaurant offerings from Pescados Unidos, Greek Island Café, Dave's Mini Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Crepe Factory, Coconut King and others.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, the BB&T Juried Art and Craft Show will unfold along the riverfront between the FPL and Tire Kingdom stages with 140 national multimedia artists.
Registration will end 1 p.m. Wednesday for the TGIF5K run through downtown West Palm Beach. The $48 advance registration includes a T-shirt, a $39-value admission to SunFest, prizes, beer at the finish line and a post-race Happy Hour party on the South Captain Morgan Floating Oasis. The race will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Visit the website for a course map.
SunFest's finale, as always, will be the returning 9 p.m. fireworks show on the river.
Headliners: Kid Rock (8:30-10 p.m. Wednesday, Ford Stage), Cake (8-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Tire Kingdom Stage), Robin Thicke (9-10 p.m. Thursday, Ford Stage), Sublime With Rome (8:30-10 p.m. Thursday, Tire Kingdom Stage), Goo Goo Dolls (9:30-11 p.m. Friday, Ford Stage), Doobie Brothers (9-10:30 p.m. Friday, Tire Kingdom Stage), Pretty Lights (9:15-11 p.m. Saturday, Ford Stage), Daughtry (9-10:15 p.m. Saturday, Tire Kingdom Stage), Ellie Goulding (7:30-9 p.m. Sunday, Ford Stage), Alice in Chains (7:15-8:30 p.m. Sunday, Tire Kingdom Stage), Austin Mahone (7:45-8:45 p.m. Sunday, FPL Stage)
When: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday, May 2; noon-11 p.m. Saturday, May 3; and noon-9 p.m. Sunday, May 4
Where: Along Flagler Drive from Banyan Boulevard to Lakeview Avenue on the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach
Cost: $30 for one-day ticket ($39 at gate), $46 for two-day pass ($56 at gate), $61 for festival pass ($71 at gate). In-person tickets: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the SunFest store (525 Clematis St., West Palm Beach).
Contact: 800-786-3378 or SunFest.comCopyright © 2015, South Florida