Okeechobee ready for 2020 music festival

OKEECHOBEE — Stores are stocked with camping supplies, the sheriff has checked and double-checked the security plans and quite a few year-round residents went shopping a little earlier this week to avoid the crowds expected on Thursday.

It’s almost music festival weekend in Okeechobee.

“Everything is going very well,” said Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen on Wednesday. “The plans are in place, reviewed and gone over again. We want the 30,000 folks anticipated at the festival to have a good and safe of a time as possible.”

The sheriff said worldwide fears about the coronavirus have caused some “hiccups” in planning the large public event, causing more resources to be put into the medical side than the law enforcement side of public safety plans. Expect to see a lot of hand washing stations at the festival. “We’re pushing that message,” said the sheriff. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular hand washing as an important way to prevent the spread of viruses.

Lake Okeechobee News/Janelle Folk

The festival opens to the public on Thursday at noon. The sheriff said his department was checking vendors entering the festival grounds on Tuesday and Wednesday. The experience of the first three OMF events taught the sheriff that some vendors attempt to bring in things that are illegal to sell.

As with the past two festivals, the 2020 OMF will have “amnesty” boxes outside the festival grounds for those who want to dispose of any contraband before they enter the venue.

“We are trying to control it as best we can for everyone to have a good and safe time,” he explained. “It’s not our first year. We have three years’ experience with music festivals.” He said he does not foresee any problems.

He said the change in festival management, with the addition of Insomniac, has gone smoothly. “Insomniac has a great group of people,” he said.

Sheriff Stephen said the setup for the festival is a little different this year, and he thinks festival goers will like it.

At the Okeechobee Walmart, camping gear and camping supplies were piled high on displays at the front of the store on Wednesday. A store associate said they try to make it easy on the festival goers to find everything they need for the weekend. She said she enjoys the festival fans when they come into the store. It’s a chance to meet people from all over the country.

The 2020 OMF headliners are Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend, Bassnectar and RÜFÜS DU SOL. More than 100 artists will perform at the weekend festival.

The festival grounds, 12517 N.E. 91st Ave., Okeechobee, are called “Sunshine Grove.” For more information online, go to okeechobeefest.com.

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