Postcards attack music festival

OKEECHOBEE — Someone is trying to trash the Okeechobee Music Festival.

On Wednesday, Okeechobee County residents received postcards with disparaging comments about the music fest in the mail.

Postcard sent to Okeechobee recipients by unknown sender.

Postcard sent to Okeechobee recipients by unknown sender.

The postcards, which were sent with no return address, had the “Okeechobee News” logo on the front. This was done without the knowledge or permission of the newspaper.

According to the Okeechobee Postmaster, the postcards were not mailed from the Okeechobee Post Office. The cards apparently came through West Palm Beach.

The Postal Inspector in West Palm Beach has been asked to investigate.

At the Thursday meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, commissioners and county staff wondered who was behind the postcard campaign and why they are attacking the music festival.

The postcards featured photos of tents with a lot of garbage in front of them, as well as photos of what appear to be people at a festival. The consensus of those who reviewed the photos is that these pictures were NOT taken in Okeechobee County.

“None of those photos came from the Okeechobee Music Festival,” pointed out Commissioner Bryant Culpepper.

“I don’t know if this is intended to be intimidation type mailer,” Mr. Culpepper said. “Somebody spent a lot of money on it.

“None of the statements on the card happened,” he said, pointing out that he and other commissioners attended the festival and have first-hand knowledge of the event.

He said he also received a threatening email in regard to the festival, but he just deleted it.

Commission Chair Frank Irby said whoever sent the postcards was not very proud of their cards.

“They didn’t put their name on it,” he said.

“Overall it (the festival) was a spectacular event,” he said. “I was just amazed at how clean it was. Part of it was people were respectful about picking up after themselves, but they also had a group of volunteers cleaning up,” he said.

“It was a green event,” said County Administrator Robbie Chartier.

At the Okeechobee Music Festival, held the first weekend in March on the Sundance Trails property in Northeast Okeechobee County, campers were given trash and recycling bags as they entered, and encouraged to make it a “no trace” event. Recycling bins and trash containers were available throughout the grounds. In addition, volunteers on the “Clean Vibes” team were constantly at work, picking up any litter that might be left on the ground — including picking up cigarette butts. Any debris left by the crowd near a stage was cleaned up by these volunteers as soon as the crowd dispersed.

In addition to the obvious differences in the appearance of the grounds, there is other proof the photos on the postcards were not taken in Okeechobee.

The photo on the front of the postcard has tents in the background and there are no cars near the tents in the photo, pointed out Mrs. Chartier. This photograph could not have been taken at the Okeechobee festival because at the Okeechobee event, campers parked their cars with their tents. Each spot had space for one vehicle and one tent.

A photo on the postcard that appears to be taken of fans near a stage shows an arch at the top indicating it was either taken indoors or there was an arched structure partially over the crowd. The Okeechobee Music Festival concerts were outdoors, and there was no such structure at the event. Also, the barricade in front of the fans in this photo is a different type of barricade than those used at the Okeechobee event.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Okeechobee community members discussed the post cards on social media, with most expressing support for the festival and outrage that whoever sent the postcards was placing both the festival and the Okeechobee community in a false, and very negative light.

Music festival organizers were disappointed to learn of the postcards, but confident that they have plenty of friends and supporters in the Okeechobee community.

“There will always be opposition no matter how good something is, but whoever would do something like this is a mean-spirited, hateful, dishonest person,” said Steve Sybesma. “They are anonymous for good reason. Most people understand this.”

Editor’s note: Anyone with information on who was behind the mass mailing of postcards is encouraged to email kelsken@newszap.com or call the newspaper at 863-763-3134.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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