Before SunFest, which back in 1983 was a funky collection of musicians, artists and craftsmen in tents and booths braided down the middle of Flagler Drive, West Palm’s springtime bash was called Seminole Sundance.
The three-day festival was created as a gimmick to keep tourists in town longer. Launched in 1916, hundreds of Seminoles would set up an Indian village around the City dock, and life in downtown WPB would come to a standstill for about a week. People from both sides of the bridges gathered in bleachers that lined the streets to watch the parades, dressed in their fancy finest. Extravagant floats, wagons overflowing with Florida produce, kids on their decorated trikes, men with alligators on leashes, and hundreds of whooping Indians – real and unreal — danced in a long line down the middle of Clematis Avenue (changed to St. later). And the food? Try a rattlesnake sandwich toasted over a gas-burning stove on the sidewalk – for a dime.
The Sundance parades also featured a rapidly emerging species with fascinating behavioral characteristics called “car dealers,” who used the parades to showcase their newfangled, motorized wares – often covered with flowers and other adornments. The festival concluded in 1950.
Today’s Sun Fest lasts 4 days, with 3 stages and 50 artists, and runs May 3rd – May 6th.
Get the daily artist lineup and purchase tickets at www.sunfest.com.
PHOTOS: HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY