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SunFest reduces full-time staff in West Palm Beach

Other events start to assess their future
PHOTOS: SunFest 2018 Day 4
Posted at 1:31 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 15:27:14-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — SunFest has reduced its full-time staff and dissolved its marketing department according to three sources obtained by WPTV NewsChannel 5's Taste and See South Florida.

The layoffs add to the uncertainty if the annual waterfront music festival will be held in 2021.

"I’m quite sure that our situation is no different than many others. Some downsizing was an unfortunate necessity due to [the coronavirus] pandemic-related loss of business. Our goal is to continue the festival in the future but the details of that are unclear at this time. As are so many things," Said Paul Jamieson, Sunfest's executive director.

In March, the waterfront festival canceled the 2020 festival due to the City of West Palm Beach's COVID-19 quarantine orders. Compounding to loss caused by severe storms and rain at the previous two years at SunFest.

"The economic impact [from SunFest not happening] is over $15-18 million. It's a lot of hotel rooms. It's a lot of money coming into the economy," Melissa Sullivan, spokeswoman for SunFest, said.

The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County responded to the layoffs at SunFest.

"The devastating effects of COVID-19 continue to impact the cultural sector the hardest. Staff reductions, budget cuts, program cancellations, reduced hours, and other difficult decisions represent the responsible and effective leadership of our cultural leaders during this unprecedented time. Now more than ever, we need the support of our civic, corporate, and community partners to restore Palm Beach County's cultural sector to the extraordinary economic engine that it is," Said Dave Lawrence, President and CEO of the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County.

The Stuart Airshow said they are planning to hold their annual event but will make a final decision in early September.

Wednesday, The Feast of Little Italy canceled the annual November event which draws nearly 25,000 people to its three-day festival in Jupiter.

"We are canceling the event because of [the] current situation out in our community and to protect the safety of friends and people who have supported us for almost two decades," Said the Feast of Little Italy's organizer, Jerry Somma. "This festival has always been built on families, and to think for one moment that one person gets ill or anything attending the event wouldn't rest well with me."