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Written By: Tish Michel
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The Patty Reese Band, w/ Tommy Lepson on keyboards, put on a great show at Sunfest.
Representing the wonderful crafts persons of Sunfest: Michele Jacinto & Chester Allen (Elemental Designs), Georgie LeHoop (paintings and T-shirts made with drum sticks) & Lucy Wirshing (Art Sea).
Lauren Glick & Mike Armstrong harmonizing on a song as The Mood Swingers delivered a “standing O” at Sunfest.

    This past weekend marked the 39th annual Sunfest in Ocean City. And believe me, my friends, when I say Sunfest doesn’t get stale but like fine wine continues to improve with age! I believe I may have attended every single one and the only one that was canceled was when hurricane Hugo was supposed to raise havoc but fortunately totally missed us. The Sunfest organizers will have their work cut out for them next year to top this year’s event when Sunfest celebrates the big 40.
    The weather was just as good as it gets and the crafts were wonderful. I was totally turned on to three new musical groups I hadn’t seen before: Patty Reese Band, Mockingbird Sun from Nashville and the U. S. Army Field Concert Band and Chorus. Best of all, the event was free (except the night shows). Furthermore, I found great free parking three of the four days.
    Now, every year I complain about the lousy and expensive food and this continues to be my only major complaint. There was absolutely nothing for sale that was on my diet. The only salad had a fried taco shell. Absent from the food choices were whole grains, baked fish or chicken, veggies that weren’t fried and plain fresh fruit.  I did break my diet to enjoy a lemon square from the Amish folks - yum! I also tried Gosia’s Pierogies and found them a welcome addition to the food tent. Now can we please just get a few healthy choices that taste great and are fairly priced?
    Let me remind you that in 2010, 2011 and 2013 our Sunfest was ranked first in the U.S. for best Classic and Contemporary Arts and Crafts Show by Sunshine Artist “America’s Premiere Show and Festival Magazine.” What I like about the crafts is there are things I can afford. I always find an inexpensive treasure for my Mel (11 lb poodle) at the Worcester County Humane Society. I was just thrilled to discover Art Sea crafts. Lucy Wirshing is the artist for Art Sea and exhibited for the first time last year. I don’t know how I missed her then but suspect she had a full tent of folks when I went by. She had a tent full of beautiful drift wood base sail boats on Thursday and the breast cancer one was what really caught my eye. “I will not give up the ship” was written on the sail along with the pink breast cancer symbol. Lucy told me her mother-in-law, Margarete Wirshing, is a survivor and this was her frequent expression as she battled breast cancer a while back. Lucy is having a second look exam on a suspicious lump the day this article gets published and my thoughts and prayers are with Lucy and her family.
    Yes, this is part of why I so love Sunfest. It truly is a family event and I find that my Sunfest family expands each year as I meet new wonderful folks like Lucy.  By the way, she sold all but two of her boats by the time I got around to taking her picture with Georgie LeHoop (paintings and T-shirts made with drum sticks), Chester Allen (Elemental Designs) and Michele Jacinto (Chester’s assistant and Joe Smooth’s wife).
    I first met Chester Allen at the 2005 Sunfest when I was begging all the vendors to donate to a Katrina fundraiser I was organizing. Chester said “Well, of course I’d be happy to donate and thank you so much for doing this for my city.” That’s when I realized he was from New Orleans and we’ve been fast friends ever since.  Just finished walking the length of the boardwalk 4 times (10 miles) with Chester Monday and the time just flew as we caught up on one another’s news since N’walins Jazz Fest last spring. Might I claim Chester as my brother from another Mother? I just adored Chester’s new design entitled “Musical Love” which has the treble and bass note coming together to form a heart to symbolize trust and respect in relationships. Chester certainly has captivated my heart with his beautiful sterling silver designs and the meaning behind each creation.
    Now for my favorite part of Sunfest.  THE MUSIC! Sorely missed from the lineup this year were three favorites of mine.  This is the second year Mary Lou and the Untouchables haven’t played. At least half a dozen folks came up to ask me how Mary is doing and when is she coming back to our fair city. We hope Mary Lou will continue to feel better and be back with us next year. Lauren Glick dedicated Bernstein’s “Summertime,” sung in the Janice Joplin style, to Mary Lou during her absolutely awesome performance with The Mood Swingers on Saturday.  Hey, Lauren, Mike, Ted and Bubba - great job opening for The Beach Boys!
    It was fabulous seeing Full Circle give a stellar premier performance at Sunfest Friday. They replaced Teenage Rust on the lineup. I surely hope that Full Circle will be given a permanent spot at Sun Fest and that Billy Carder and the other “Rusters” will be in good health and back with us next year. Speaking about well wishes, I must say that Joe Mama did an outstanding job filling in for Gary with Full Circle and hope Gary will be back performing very soon! Finally, I am happy to report that Randy Lee Ashcraft and his Saltwater Cowboys are all in good health but the Sunfest folks waited too long to book Randy this year. I’ve been enjoying Randy at Sunfest every year for as long as I can remember so here’s hoping he gets asked in time next year. After all, our Randy is one of the most sought after musicians in town and we just love his band!
    As always, Poole & the Gang and N.O.M.A.D. gave top notch shows. The Diamonds were also wonderful, but only have two sets of music for six shows. It was great having Jimmy Charles return to the Eastern Shore and we’re so pleased with his success in Nashville. His song “Whatever it Takes” made it to #3 on the CMT charts. Mockingbird Sun was another band from Nashville and I certainly hope to have the pleasure of seeing this fine group of musicians again someday. Check out their music video on U Tube entitled Lucky Guy. I didn’t get to Sunfest in time to hear Quiet Fire, but Chester Allen raved about them.
    Over the years Grammy winner Daryl Davis and other musician friends from the D.C. area have told me that I would really enjoy hearing the Patty Reese Band and that I should book them for my concert series, which I just ended after a dozen plus years last spring. Wow - I’m sorry I waited so long to hear them - PATTY REESE ROCKS! She started her first set with Aaron Neville’s “Yellow Moon” and I became an instant fan for life! Her next number was “Strong Medicine” which is the title track of her latest CD. I also liked her original “Good Lovin Man” written about her husband. She has quite a range and did a killer job singing Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart.” What a soulful bluesy voice! Her “I Want to Take You With Me” was voted #1 song by WAMMIE and she has won a dozen more WAMMIEs over the years. Her band members included Robert Fiester on guitar (he’s played with her on many occasions over the years and refers to himself as the “oldest newbie” of the group), Sonny Petrosky (her bass player since ‘95), Andy Hamburger (drums) and Tommy Lepson (keyboard). She and her band will play with the fabulous Ron Holliway at Bethany Blues in Rehoboth on October 19th. I plan to be there and hope many of you will join me. Patty says she use to play at Fager’s Island and The Ocean Club with Jr. Cline & the Recliners  Well, I hope Fager’s and Doc Berger will both consider booking the Patty Reese Band soon again!
    I know I’m running way too long on this article but must mention that our Ocean City Recreation Dancers gave what I thought was their best ever show to Broadway tunes; costumes were wonderful.  Finally, The 65 member U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus were fantastic performing two Verdi opera duets, Gershwin’s West Side Story, Carol King medley and many more great numbers. Sunfest 2013 was great - thanks OC!  OMG, do I love living here!
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