Mudfest planned second weekend in August

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Commission Thursday approved a temporary use permit for the 2017 Mudfest, with an option for two Mudfests per year through 2022.

Mudfests are planned for the second weekend of August and the second weekend of February.

The property owners are working with HaloCo Entertainment, the company that operates the Redneck Mud Park in Punta Gorda. They expect the 2017 Mudfest to draw 7,000 to 8,000 people.

Okeechobee County Planning and Zoning Director Bill Royce said Okeechobee Mudfests started in the mid-2000s and there were number of issues, but with each Mudfest, it got better and better. The last Mudfest was in February 2013. He said changes at the entrance will allow them to stack more vehicles off the highway to reduce the traffic delays on State Road 70.

With any big event, there is still going to be traffic on State Road 70, he said.

No one will be allowed to operate a motor vehicle on the property after dark.

There will be music with a D.J. at the event in the evening, but the music will stop at 11 p.m.

According to the staff report, the Planning Board conducted a public hearing on April 25, and unanimously recommended that the Board of County Commissioners authorize the Community Development Department to issue Temporary Use Permits for two Okeechobee Mudfest events per year through the year 2022 subject to the following conditions:

• Mudfest events shall be authorized for one 4-day weekend in February and one 4-day weekend in August of each year through 2022;

• A separate permit shall be issued for each event;

• Upon completion of construction for a divided four-lane highway for that segment of State Road 70 that fronts the subject property, continuation of Mudfest events is contingent on the existence and use of a median crossover providing direct access to the primary entrance to and exit from the site;

• Each Temporary Use Permit shall include the conditions, subject to modification upon concurrence with county staff, Fire Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office;

• The Community Development Department shall schedule a de-briefing after each event and shall solicit input from the applicants, Fire Rescue Department, Sheriff’s Office, Health Department and the Florida Department of Transportation to assess the impacts of the event and determine whether adjustments to the approved procedures are warranted; and,

• Additional Mudfest events will require a new application subject to applicable regulations in effect at the time of the application.

“I think this is another great opportunity for Okeechobee County,” said Frank Irby during the public comment period.

“The question I have is will the Mudfest, like the Mexican Rodeo and the Music Fest, pay something to the county?” he said. “Are we treating all of these similar events the same way?”

“My opinion is that we should have a basic template that outlines all of the responsibilities when we have these major events,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper suggested the county waive the fee for the first Mudfest and consider requiring a fee to the county at the second event.

He suggested that since there was a gap of several years, the county should treat the 2017 Mudfest like a new festival.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for folks to have something to do,” said Commissioner Culpepper.

This year, those with pre-sale tickets will be allowed to enter the property and set up their camps on Thursday, but no mudding will begin until 8 a.m. Friday.

“People who are diehard mudfesters, they want to be here early,” said property owner Debra Sales. “We want to prevent people from parking on the side of the road at 3 in the morning. We want to open the gates and let people with presale tickets come in and set up their camps. We don’t want people to park on the side of the road waiting for the gates to open.”

She said they expect to sell about 2,000 to 3,000 advance tickets.

Only those with presale tickets will be allowed on the property before Friday morning.

Chairman Burroughs asked about the noise level from the music.

“You have a pretty open field and you are going to point the speakers toward the Northwest,” he said.

Mrs. Sales said Mudfest will feature country music, which does not have the loud bass that drew complaints during the Music Fest.

“We’ve done it in the past and haven’t had a problem,” she said. “We’ll shut the music down by 10:30, 11 o’clock because that’s all we can stand.”
Commissioner Brad Goodbread asked if open fires will be allowed. He said during the Okeechobee Music Fest, campfires were not allowed.

Bill Royce said the county will coordinate this with the fire department depending on conditions at the time. They hope that by August there will be enough rain to lift the burn ban, but if a burn ban is in place, it will be enforced.

“I would think you would think twice about having open fires out there with that number of people,” said Chairman Burroughs.

“It depends on the weather,” said Debra Sales. “We’ve always allowed campfires.

“We typically have two water trucks,” she explained.

“The water truck team patrols the property and extinguishes fires or hot coals as needed,” she added.

“If there is a burn ban, they won’t be allowed to have fires,” she said.
She said the biggest crowd Mudfest has drawn in the past was about 19,000 people.

She said they expect about 8,000 attendees this year.

“The people who come to Mudfest spend money in our community,” she said.

The Mudfest property is a group of three tracts totaling about 254 acres on the north side of State Road 70 East about one-half mile west of NE 128th Avenue. The property is zoned Agricultural, according to the staff report. The property is currently vacant except for a cellular communications tower. The property is used mostly for cattle grazing. To the north/northwest are several large tracts zoned Residential Single Family-Estate (RSF-E). The tracts total about 1,000 acres and have received preliminary plat approval for a 500-unit subdivision. Construction for the subdivision has not begun. To the west is acreage of about 130 acres that has preliminary plat approval for a 12-lot subdivision. The property is owned by the owners of the subject property. In the middle of that property is an internal street that is owned by another party. That street has been constructed but has not been certified.

To the south is the Estates at Okeechobee Pines subdivision, consisting of lots averaging 10 acres in area. The subdivision has been constructed but no homes have been built. To the southwest is Spot In The Sun, a subdivision that is substantially built out with residences mostly on one-acre and half-acre lots. To the south/southeast is a large tract that is part of a dairy operation. To the north/northeast is Crooked Creek, a subdivision consisting of 2-acre home sites, substantially developed with single family residences.

Some of the residences are adjacent to the Mudfest site. A little further to the east is N.E. 128th Avenue (Berman Road), a major collector roadway. On the southeast corner of the intersection of State Road 70 East and Berman Road are a gas station/convenience store and a restaurant.

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

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