Mudfest to return to Okeechobee County

OKEECHOBEE — Mudfest will return to Okeechobee County in August, according to information shared at the Okeechobee County Commission meeting on Thursday, March 23.

County Administrator Robbie Chartier said the owners of the Mudfest property on State Road 70 are applying for permits for Mudfest events in August and February.

She said due to the new festival regulations, Mudfest will have to meet the same requirements as the Okeechobee Music Festival.

After the first Okeechobee Music Festival in 2016, the county developed regulations for large festivals with requirements for things such as traffic control, noise control and reimbursement for county expenses.

Staff is applying to Mudfest what the county applied to the music festival, she said.

“They didn’t have these types of regulations before,” she said, adding that the Mudfest organizers will have a lot of work to do before August.

She said the special exception for Mudfest will go to the Okeechobee Planning Board before it is considered by the county commission.

The last Okeechobee Mudfest was held in February 2013 and attracted about 8,000 people in vehicles ranging from ATVs to monster trucks. Accidents at that event resulted in 15 people transported by ambulance to Raulerson Hospital and three persons airlifted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

The organizers did not seek a permit to hold Mudfest during the past four years.

In other business Thursday, Mrs. Chartier recapped a recent county staff meeting regarding the 2017 music festival, which was held March 2-5.

She said they discussed problem areas and proposed solutions.

One goal for the 2018 event is to solidify an attendance number up front and stick to that number. For the 2017 event, the county had cut back the allowed attendance number due to concerns about work underway on one of the entrances, then allowed the festival organizers to increase ticket sales closer to the event when it was evident the entrance would be finished in time.

Mrs. Chartier noted the entrance still needs improvement to keep traffic from backing up. She said it worked well as long as the flaggers were there. She added they need to put some “no parking” signs along the roadway, as some festival fans tried to park on the county right-of-way and walk over to the festival grounds. This created increased traffic congestion.

More signage is needed on the festival property, she said. In particular, they need to number the roundabouts to make it easier for emergency officials to quickly respond when someone needs help.

Mrs. Chartier said county staff also proposes to end the festival earlier on Sunday night.

She said young people who stayed up much of Sunday night were falling asleep in their cars while waiting in traffic to leave on Monday.

Another change proposed is to have all of the “will call” traffic at one location. She said the sheriff suggested the Agri-Civic Center.

She said county staff will meet with Soundslinger officials over the next few weeks to work out the issues and improve upon lessons learned.

“Our biggest problem as it relates to the public is the noise,” Mrs. Chartier said. She said they have requested a report from the sound engineers in regard to the number of complaints on the 800 number hotline.

“I would like to see the analysis from our sound people,” said Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs.

“I am not opposed to the music festival whatsoever,” he said. “But I thought we had an agreement as to how sound would be managed.

“I have given Mr. Royce some suggestions as to how we can move forward,” he continued, noting they can use some ideas tried at other places with the same problems.

At the Thursday meeting, the county also planned an April 3 meeting with the Florida Department of Transportation to discuss the proposed State Road 710 Extension.

The public meeting will be held April 3 at 1 p.m. with FDOT in the county commission meeting room in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse, 304 N.W. Second St.

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

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