Shining the Spotlight on SunFest

SunFest 2024 is right around the corner! The festival’s new executive director, Dianna Craven, gives the lowdown on what to expect

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Scenes from SunFest 2023. Photo courtesy of SunFest
Scenes from SunFest 2023. Photo courtesy of SunFest

Dianna Craven has been attending Palm Beach County’s annual music festival since she was in high school. “I was born and raised here, my mother was born here, and SunFest and the community are dear to my heart,” she says. As SunFest celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year, Craven finds herself at the helm, stepping into the role of executive director last July when former director Paul Jamieson retired. 

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Craven’s history—the 54-year-old has been on staff with the music festival since 1996. Over nearly three decades, her responsibilities have included sponsorship management, program creation, hospitality, ticketing, and marketing. “SunFest started for economic impact and to revitalize downtown West Palm Beach,” she says. “It’s truly remarkable how it has lasted over the years and grown to what it is today.”

Prior to joining SunFest, Craven worked as director of marketing and public relations at Ballet Florida and in the community events division in the West Palm Beach mayor’s office, where she was the city’s liaison with SunFest. Joining the SunFest team allowed her to use her event management skills to support both a beloved event and the community it serves. “The most exciting part of working at SunFest is bringing people together to help achieve a common goal,” she says.

SunFest’s new executive director, Dianna Craven. Photo by Capehart
SunFest’s new executive director, Dianna Craven. Photo by Capehart

We caught up with Craven ahead of SunFest 2024 to find out what’s in store and learn a little bit more about her personal musical tastes.

Who is your favorite artist who has performed at SunFest?

Lenny Kravitz in 2000—he’s a phenomenal performer and musician. Right before the show started, he pulled up in a limo wearing this flowing coat and just ran right up on stage. 

Who has taken you by surprise?

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real in 2018. Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son, and he has a raspy tone like his dad. I immediately recognized it and stopped what I was doing to listen. I never would have come across him had he not been at SunFest, and now I’m a fan.

What kind of music do you listen to?

My favorite band is R.E.M. I love ’80s alternative rock. I’m also more prone to country now. I view it as the new pop, a genre that, as a parent, everyone can enjoy. And I think Lizzo is phenomenal! She performed at SunFest before hitting it big. 

What are some of SunFest’s biggest challenges?

We’ve had to deal with inflation and the rising cost of talent. As a nonprofit community festival, there’s only so much funding available to keep the event affordable for the fans. Another challenge we face is the heat. We have an on-site field hospital just outside the gate to treat attendees who are dehydrated.

Third Eye Blind will perform at SunFest 2024
Third Eye Blind will perform at SunFest 2024.

What’s new this year?

We’re adding our Community Stage, which will showcase the talent Florida has to offer. It’ll have school groups, South Florida bands, vocal ensembles, dance troupes, and more. We’re also bringing back our Creative Art Village for artists to showcase their work and an immersive art experience for fans.

Nelly is one of the headliners for this year’s SunFest. Photo by Kimber Rockey
Nelly is one of the headliners for this year’s SunFest. Photo by Kimber Rockey

Who are you most looking forward to seeing on stage this year?

I’m excited about the all-female group The Aces and country up-and-comer Hailey Whitters.

SunFest 2024

When: May 3, 5-11 p.m.; May 4, noon-11 p.m.; May 5, noon-10 p.m.

Where: Downtown West Palm Beach (101 S. Clematis St.)

Who: Nelly, Cole Swindell, Third Eye Blind, Billy Idol, Shaggy, Dashboard Confessional, Matisyahu, Yung Gravy, and more

Cost: $80/one-day pass; $155/three-day pass; VIP passes start at $175; discounted youth tickets; children 5 and under free 

To see the full lineup and purchase tickets, visit sunfest.com.

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