Commissioners to discuss 2018 music festival plans

OKEECHOBEE — An update on the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival is on the agenda for Thursday’s Okeechobee County Commission meeting at 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse, 302 N.W. Second St.

The second annual Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival (OMF17) was held on the first weekend of March 2017. Festival attendees began arriving on Thursday, March 2, and left by Monday, March 6. Following the festival, county staff met with representatives from the sheriff’s office, health department, fire rescue and emergency management to discuss operational aspects of the festival, specifically which aspects could use further review and improvement in anticipation of the 2018 Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival currently scheduled for Thursday, March 1, 2018 through Sunday, March 4, 2018.

Following that meeting, the county departments and agencies then met with Soundslinger, the entity that owns and operates the music festival. This meeting continued the discussion of what worked and what didn’t work and what needed to be improved for the next festival.

The first music festival, OMF16, attracted a total of nearly 35,000 people, including paid admissions, on-site staff, artists and guests. The second festival, OMF17, attracted a total of approximately 41,000 throughout the four days, including over 32,000 paid admissions. It is anticipated that paid attendance could reach 40,000 for OMF18.

Regarding the operations and impacts of the festival, factors such as external and internal signage, internal communications, internal mobility, efficiency and location of the entrances, the off-site box offices, traffic in general, and medical services were all acknowledged as areas that will continue to be discussed and refined in preparation of future festivals.

Noise continues to be a primary issue of concern regarding the impacts to the surrounding area. Closer neighbors, but also residents in areas such as Country Hills Estates and Okeechobee Hills, complained of noise at various times during the festival. Soundslinger spent considerable resources studying the noise impacts from the festival, including funding a consultant hired by the county to observe and record off-site noise readings in areas around the festival site. There were still failures to contain noise impacts and those impacts must be addressed.

The meeting discussion on Thursday will solicit suggestions and direction from the Board of County Commissioners and from the public on how to improve the festival experience for the residents of the county. It is the goal and intent of county personnel and festival organizers to reasonably manage those impacts such as traffic and noise.

Representatives from Soundslinger along with representatives from the various county departments will be in attendance.

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