Dark clouds blocked the sun on SunFest's opening day, but didn't keep music fans away from the waterfront in downtown West Palm Beach.
"We're not prepared for rain, but if it comes, Kid Rock will wash it away," said Charlotte Hopper with a laugh, elbowing her fiancée of 12 years, Jeff, 51, in the shoulder.
The West Palm Beach family, who brought their 6-year-old daughter Lona, bought a five-day festival pass and arrived as gates opened at 5 p.m., easily finding their place on the pristine waterfront lawn that framed the Ford Stage.
By 6 p.m., thousands in bikinis, cowboy hats and T-shirts came shuffling in through the Clematis Street gates and spread their wares over the grass in anticipation for the headliner to come: blue-collar cowboy Kid Rock.
Country-rock arrived early on with Nashville-based the Vegabonds, last at SunFest in 2011, who switched to blues-rock halfway through their set with their song "Georgia Fire."
"We made some memories last time. Let's make memories again this time!" the lead singer shouted from the stage, drawing an equally appreciative roar from the crowd.
Traffic was diverted from Flagler Drive to South Olive Avenue one block west. Street parking was abundant as gates opened, as were spaces in the Evernia Street Garage two blocks off Clematis Street.
Inside, the aroma of carnitas, chicken shish kebabs and deep-fried doughnuts wafted from the semicircle of food vendors on the edge of the waterfront. Harmon Chapital, 42, of Delray Beach, went for comfort food, a meatloaf cupcake he described as "heart-attack city": a bacon-wrapped ball of meat smothered in mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese.
"I didn't know this abomination existed," said Chapital, who brought his wife, Jannice, and daughter, Meaghan, 24. "My wife played hooky from work, and my daughter is on vacation from [Florida State University]. We're the parents of the year."
They bought five-day passes. Like her husband, Jannice loves Kid Rock and California indie-rockers Cake, who also performed on opening night. But she's really holding out for Thursday's headliner: pop heartthrob Robin Thicke.
"I told Meaghan I'll be twerking tomorrow," Jannice said with a laugh.
"Oh, God, no, please," Meaghan said, as the Vegabonds launched into a blistering cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." "I mean, I'll support her from a distance, but whatever."
At 6:30 p.m., still-rising West Palm Beach-based indie-rockers Surfer Blood took the Tire Kingdom Stage on schedule.
"The band sounds like something I'd like," said Dave Leasure, of Lake Worth, who hadn't heard the band before.
"This is our first time here, but we love it," said his wife, Jodie Kocher. "Every act here is so versatile and genuine, and this couldn't have happened in a more beautiful place."
Check out SouthFlorida.com's SunFest survival guide as well as ongoing coverage at Southflorida.com/sunfest.