Music, art and magic at Sunshine Groves

OKEECHOBEE — Music producer Paul Peck can’t stop raving about the Okeechobee County property that was recently renamed “Sunshine Grove.”

The 800-acre property just off N.E. 120th St. was previously known as Sundance Trails. It will be home to the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in March.

On Tuesday, while taking a group of journalists around the property, Peck could not contain his enthusiasm for the natural beauty of the land, which features old growth live oak trees and towering Sabal palms, along with lots of open rolling grassland and even its own lakes. Every spot the tour stopped, he described as “one of my favorites.”

A reporter asked how much landscaping had been done, and the answer was “none.” The trees and plants were already there, as careful stewardship of the land over the last decade has kept the native vegetation healthy and property free of problems with invasive plants.

The site preparation for the festival has included building a sand beach at one of the lakes — using sand from the site, adding winding pathways through the woods, and improving the drainage by building up the campground areas.

While a lot of site work has been done, the genius of the plan was to keep the property looking as if this is the natural state. Florida wildlife appears to approve. During the tour, reporters saw a variety of native birds as well as a small herd of deer.

The property is beautiful as is. It’s a slice of old Florida. Festival organizers have plans to turn it into something magical. The venue will include something for everyone.

The main stage area, called The Grove, is a lush grass-covered clearing surrounded by a natural amphitheater of tall trees. It will have a main stage and two smaller stages, with room for more than 30,000 people to enjoy the shows.

The Moonlight Oasis area will feature all day and all night activities. Aquachobee Beach will have it’s own waterside stage. Fans can take in the sun, splash in the shallows or swim in the lake while enjoying the music. Jungle 51 is a hidden treasure. From the outside it appears to be a stand of trees. But follow the winding path to find the clearing which will host all night dance parties. It is rumored this area will have an alien crash site theme, and mysterious artifacts may appear late at night.

ChobeeWobee Village will feature large scale art installations as well as art workshops and comedy. Look for art from Burning Man as well as some artwork created just for the Okeechobee event.

YogaChobee will feature a tearoom in the trees, a quiet place to reflect, rest, communicate with friends and with nature. It will also feature yoga and meditation classes and workshops, as well as Thai massage.

Construction of the stages and facilities will not be done until a few weeks before the festival. They’ll also bring in portable toilets and showers and drinking water stations.music fest logo

Camping options include basic and deluxe campsites, RV sites, a tour bus area and ADA accessible camping. From the campsites, it’s just a short walk through the woods to the stages. The venue has been designed so those attending can spend less time walking and more time enjoying the music, art and food. But for those who want more exercise, there is plenty of room to hike.

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

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