Sept. 22, 1994 will long be remembered as the date of the “Sunfest Disaster,” a day which taxed Ocean City’s emergency services to the limit. As vendors were setting up for the opening of Sunfest, the annual end of summer arts, crafts and music celebration, a windstorm hit the Inlet Parking Lot with 50 mph winds. Tents were ripped, concession booths destroyed and craft inventories scattered in all directions.
While the storm continued, a fire broke out 15 blocks north in a Sunsations store on 9th Street. It quickly spread, fanned by the same winds that had devastated the Sunfest site, and destroyed the Candy Kitchen, the Alaska Stand, the Boardwalk Auction Gallery and the Crab Alley Restaurant. The fire also threatened the Lankford Hotel but heroic work by firefighters saved the venerable hotel.
Sunfest re-opened on a smaller scale the next day but the fire changed the south side of 9th Street forever.
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Photo by Alfred Harrison