McAfee Electric, an electrical father-son company, has provided the power for a huge Palm Beach music festival for 27 years. Last month, the Palm Beach Post profiled the current owner, Kyle McAfee, and what his company does to wire the annual Sunfest event.
The festival draws 165,000 fans, along with some 50 acts, even big-name, as well as food vendors, sponsors and hospitality tents. McAfee says that he keeps the plan in his head, and if necessary, makes alterations on the spot. For example, when Fergie and Black-Eyed Peas played the event in 2008, they arrived with a big stage set requesting an additional 400 A of power. “All I had at the north stage was an extra 2 (A). They kept asking, ‘Do we have it?’ and I kept saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, you got it,’ while praying it would work,” McAfee told the Palm Beach Post.
McAfee was 8 when his father Rob's company started supplying electricity to what was still a small downtown jazz festival. Kyle trained to be a movie stuntman, "which turns out to be good training for pulling off a near-impossible job while making it look easy," the Post said.
As SunFest has grown to one of the Southeast’s largest outdoor festivals, so has the sophistication of the labyrinthine electrical system McAfee and 10 employees build, maintain, then dismantle every year, a job that consumes 1,600 worker hours over two weeks. That comes out to about 80 hours a week per worker...(Palm Beach Post)
The electrical company has worked with the City of West Palm Beach to erect permanent high-voltage power stations along the waterfront that can also be used for other downtown events. The flimsy romex wire of early SunFests has been replaced by safer SO cable, which plugs into about two dozen high-voltage transformers the size of suitcases that McAfee places at critical points. The transformers take the 480 V from those FPL feeds and step it down to 120 V, which powers almost everything. The transformers also eliminate the need for the long runs of wire that causes electrical fluctuations, the dreaded “dirty power” that can damage the sensitive electronics of sound boards and stage special effects.