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Heat doesn't fry fans' enthusiasm at Tampa's Sunset Music Festival

Security officials sprayed water on fans in the front row of Bonnie X Clyde’s set at the Sunset Music Festival on Sunday, May 26, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Temperatures hit the upper 90s, sending fans in search of shade, fans and water. (JAY CRIDLIN | Times)
Published May 26

TAMPA — For once, the people with the most power at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium weren't the DJs perched high on the lavish, glittering main stage.

It was the guy with the fire hose to their right.

"Getting up there is like a performance, almost," said Bryce Lang of Orlando, one of several festival workers on Sunday tasked with spraying down overheated crowds during the hottest parts of the day. "Some of the people were really enjoying it; some people really were not. But it is a lot of fun up there."

He helped keep things fun down on the ground, too. With temperatures poking the upper 90s on Sunday — some of the highest of the year to date in Tampa — this year's Sunset Music Festival proved an endurance battle for even the hardiest partiers out there.

But the torrid heat did little to wilt the spirits of 25,000 electronic dance music fans each day. To many, the heat was arguably an upgrade over some recent years. Three times since 2014, the festival has been either evacuated or canceled due to nasty weather — or, in the case of 2018's sunny-skied cancellation, the mere threat of it.

The bigger dangers to fans on Saturday and early Sunday turned out to be heat, dehydration and dust inhalation. Tampa Fire rescue handled 91 medical calls on Saturday, compared to 66 on Day 1 last year, taking 30 fans to the hospital for treatment. Many of those, Tampa Police spokesman Eddy Durkin said, had heat-related issues. (Sunday's figures were not available at press time.)

Sunset organizers did what they could to mitigate matters, staging DJs in multiple cool-down tents and spritzing the thickest crowds at the two biggest stages with a fine mist. Festival workers handed out water bottles to fans pressed up against the security barriers, and there was an array of industrial-size fans spread across the festival grounds.

One fan solution to beat the heat: Wear as little clothing as possible. Shirtless men in shorty-shorts and women in onesies bounced in and out of shady spots both days, with little shielding their exposed skin but suntan lotion and body glitter.

And then there were those who bucked the less-is-more trend, opting for full-body pajama suits or other seemingly oppressive costumes.

Adrian Martinez, 19, of Tampa, showed up in a thick red Teletubbies mask, and was inundated with selfie requests throughout the day.

"I had the whole suit, and I just thought it's too hot for the suit," he said. "But I'll bear it for the mask."

Sun-hardened fans' reward for surviving until sundown: Hit-filled sets by Grammy-winning and nominated DJs like Zedd on Saturday and Skrillex and Kaskade on Sunday, punctuated by fireworks both nights above the stadium.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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