And it begins … Inaugural Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival is under way

OKEECHOBEE — Thousands of music lovers began pouring into Okeechobee County on Thursday for the first Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, on the 800-plus acre property that – at least for the duration of the festival – is being called “Sunshine Grove.”

The property was formerly known as Sundance Trails, and this is still the name on the front gate, along with horse statues which illustrate the former plans for an equestrian community. Those development plans were stalled when the Real Estate market crashed in 2008.

The work already done on the property – including six miles of paved roads – made it a unique venue for the major music festival that is going on this weekend.

This week’s events are more than two years in the planning, including a lot of coordination with local officials in Okeechobee County. Organizers hope to make the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival an annual event. There are also some plans in discussion for smaller events on the property during the year.

For this weekend, festival organizers have built their own temporary city on the site. In addition to the camping areas and five stages, there are food vendors, medical tents and even their own version of a jail. The festival boasts its own beach (created on the shore of a pond), a tea garden and a Ferris wheel.

The festival is expected to nearly double the normal population of Okeechobee County. Campers were allowed to start setting up on Thursday, and some special events were planned for Thursday evening. The non-stop music shows start in earnest on Friday.

Festival lineup includes Mumford & Sons, Kendrick Lamar, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Odesza, Daryl Hall & John Oates, The Avett Brothers, Future, Miguel, Fetty Wap, Ween, Mac Miller, Big Grams and more.

For night owls, the Jungle 51 stage will provide music all night long.

For those interested in health, the festival includes programs during the day at the area designated as YogaChobee.

For more information, go online to okeechobeefest.com.

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

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