SUNFESTIVAL 2023 Raises the Bar
If you have 2,000 pounds, you have a ton; if you have 2,000 calories a day, you won’t weigh a ton; and if you have 2,000 people having a ton of fun, you have a phenomenally successful SUNFESTIVAL.
“The event exceeded all our expectations,” said SUNFESTIVAL co-chairs Mike DeFlavia and Lewis Dawley. And it wasn’t just locals. “I spoke to a couple who came from San Francisco, California,” said executive director Kim Leisey. “This is a destination event and is great news for the town and businesses of Rehoboth Beach.”
The annual Labor Day weekend celebration that is SUNFESTIVAL started with a sold-out crowd on Saturday, laughing till it hurt with top Tupperware salesperson/honey-dripping drag comedy legend Dixie Longate. The audience was then awed by Cher and other icons brought to life by Randy Roberts. By Sunday night the convention center had been transformed into a high-energy club, with world-class DJs and jaw-dropping light effects.
“It was wonderful to see everything come together and then witness so many people showing up on both nights” said Jim Schmidt, CAMP Rehoboth Volunteer. “I really appreciated how welcoming CAMP’s new executive director, Kim Leisey, was to guests as they entered the convention center on Saturday. It was my first time meeting her in person and she helped set an inclusive tone for the start of the event, which is so meaningful for newer members of the CAMP community.
Tribute to Natalie Moss
The heart that is at the center of CAMP Rehoboth was apparent when Saturday night’s program started with a moving tribute to the late Natalie Moss, who contributed thousands of volunteer hours over more than 30 years. It was a fitting reminder of the important part she had played in CAMP’s history. “I had the opportunity to volunteer with Natalie on her auction team last year,” said Jim Schmidt. “She was the exemplar of the type of dedicated volunteer to which we should all aspire.”
Tupperware with a Twang
Back the truck up, honey! Dixie Longate was a force to be reckoned with. “Many people were skeptical of a ‘Tupperware Party,’ but the feedback I got was incredible,” said Mike DeFlavia. “I had friends texting me in real time saying, ‘Now I want to buy Tupperware.’ And later, one said ‘Love Dixie. I’m drunk placing a Tupperware order now.’”
“I heard from multiple people that they loved Dixie Longate,” said Board President Wesley Combs. “I heard someone say they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time,” added Mike DeFlavia. “Dixie had them in stitches.”
A Cast of Thousands
More an illusionist than just a female impersonator, Randy Roberts delivered one icon after another to an enthusiastic crowd. “Randy portrayed each icon perfectly!” said Mike DeFlavia.
Lewis Dawley added, “Randy Roberts’ all-live show was spectacular, and his impersonations of iconic legends, Cher and Bette Midler, were perfection. His voice is so amazing, and his wardrobe too!”
The Dance at the Heart of SUNFESTIVAL
You know it’s a great party when even the DJ has a blast. “I had the best time last night out of all the years I’ve played Sundance,” said DJ/Producer Joe Gauthreaux. “The event is very special, and I am so glad it’s back and better than ever!”
The high-energy beats had everyone out on the dance floor, and as the evening wore on, the shirts came off. “Sundance is a highlight of the year,” said attendee Steve Morris, “and this year was no exception. The decor, DJs, and drinks were the perfect mix to close out the summer season.”
Technology That Wowed
One thing everyone agreed on was the awesome new effects. “I was blown away by the technology used for both shows, especially the large digital display on the stage,” said Wes Combs. “The images enhanced both events.”
The technological effects were particularly in evidence at the dance on Sunday, dazzling everyone with a music and light extravaganza. “It was thanks to the vision of decoration co-chairs Michael Fishman and Chris Beagle, whose LED screen and light vision came to life spectacularly,” said SUNFESTIVAL co-chairs Mike DeFlavia and Lewis Dawley. “Definitely raised the bar!”
An Auction from the Heart
Successful auctions depend on the generosity of donors who provide the items that entice bidders, and the SUNFESTIVAL auction was a record breaker because of those donors. From luxurious trips to an e-bike, date nights for a year, and even some high-end tequila, donors gave bidders plenty of choices.
Danny Sebright answered the call by donating a dream vacation in Lisbon, a hugely generous gift. But he didn’t stop there. When bidding reached the highest level, he doubled his donation! This created two happy winners and multiplied the funds for CAMP.
The auction ended with a bang, with bidders competing to take home SOULMATE, an original painting by CAMP Rehoboth co-founder Murray Archibald. In the end, it was Paula Sydenstricker and Colleen Malloy who won out. “For my wife Colleen and I, this was our first SUNFESTIVAL after decades of vacationing in the area and permanently relocating to Rehoboth in May 2023,” said Paula. “When the art was brought out to the stage, I knew that we had to bid on it because it was so beautiful and would go perfectly in a prominent place in our home. We will get to enjoy it for the rest of our lives and have fond memories of our SUNFESTIVAL experience and our contribution to CAMP Rehoboth. Priceless!”
In the end, the auction raised more than $70,000 for CAMP Rehoboth thanks to everyone who donated the items and everyone who bid on the items.
“This was only my third SUNFESTIVAL since moving to the area,” said Jim Schmidt, “and I thought it was the best yet. Kudos to Mike and Lewis and all of the subcommittee chairs and their teams!” Mike DeFlavia added, “Great job to everyone, including the marketing committee, who helped make it a sell-out early, and the sponsorship committee, who sold those sponsorships so quickly!” “Overall, a fantastic event! “Congratulations to all involved,” said auction chair Leslie Sinclair.
Development manager Laurie Thompson said, “We are grateful to the more than 90 sponsors of SUNFESTIVAL and thank them for their generous support that will help to provide programs and services for the LGBTQ+ community.”
“We are grateful to all of our sponsors and supporters who continue to help the mission of CAMP Rehoboth, creating an inclusive community for all sexual orientations and gender identities,” said Kim Leisey. “I am especially grateful to the SUNFESTIVAL committee, staff, and board of directors for their leadership and execution of this event.” Leisey said she received many positive comments. “Although we are sorry to see the summer go, we know that the fun of CAMP Rehoboth continues on! Great team effort.” ▼