Music festival plans on track

OKEECHOBEE — As the dates near for the third annual Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, county officials appear confident that plans are on track for another successful event.

Okeechobee County Planning Director Bill Royce said the county has received all of the plans for the March 1-4 camping festival at Sunshine Grove (aka Sundance Trails), an 800-acre property in northeastern Okeechobee County off Northeast 120th Street.

“We trying to increase our efficiency, be better community partners,” said Kevin Collinsworth, Soundslinger CEO.

He said a majority of the traffic for the festival will come in on Thursday and Friday as campers arrive for the four-day festival. Most will leave on Sunday night or Monday morning.

The three main stages will be near the lodge, as they were in previous years. However, this year the angle of the stages will be changed slightly to the north/northeast.

Mr. Collinsworth said they will be using new NoizCalc software to manage the sound. The software manufacturer is sending representatives from Germany to the festival. Additional speakers will provide better coverage for the festival grounds with less bleed.

He said they will monitor sound levels near the stage, at various points on the festival grounds and at neighboring homes.

The main stage concerts will close a little earlier this year. The late night Area-51 stage will not be open on Sunday night.

Festival visitors will see even more art this year, as the “found art” scattered around the property continues to expand with each festival.

Mr. Collinsworth said most festival goers last year were age 21-25, but there was a range with some families bringing young children, and folks in their 70s also in attendance.

The music fest attracts a lot of visitors from Miami, Orlando and the Tampa Bay area and college kids on spring break, as well as tourists from all over the world. Last year, there were visitors from every continent except Antarctica.

Okee-Love is also becoming a tradition, said Mr. Collinsworth. Last year there were several weddings at the festival, and they already have requests to hold weddings at this year’s music fest.

The festival benefits the community with increased sales to local businesses — especially on Thursday when the fans stop in town to stock up on food, beverages and camping supplies. Many carpool from other states and don’t have the room in the vehicle to bring supplies for the weekend with them.

The county also receives $3 for every ticket sold. The festival pays for the actual expenses to the county such as law enforcement, fire and EMT services.

Last year, local nonprofit organizations raised over $100,000 in donations at the event.

“We’re hoping to break that this year,” Mr. Collinsworth said.

The festival promotes recycling. Last year the Warrior Center came out after the festival and collected “a tremendous amount” of camping gear that they were able to use for homeless veterans. Mr. Collinsworth said they will continue that tradition this year, with spots designated for donation of unwanted items.

A big change this year — all of the remote box office operations will be at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center.

Mr. Collinsworth said they have been working on neighbor and community relations.

They have hosted regular neighborhood barbecues to update and inform the neighbors.

This year they will add more signage, gates, fencing, lights and security to keep festival fans off the adjoining private property. Working with the neighbors, they have identified problem areas where festival fans trespassed over private property to try to gain access to the site and worked on ways to prevent that problem from recurring.

They have established a hot line which will be active during the festival.

Happy people were in plentiful supply throughout last year’s festival.

The hot line (866-834-6870) will be answered by a live operator during the festival who will route the call depending on what it is.

Sheriff Noel Stephen said he is happy with the plans.

“Things are a little bit different each year,” he said. “I think we are entering into this OMF 18 at a good spot.

“I feel confident we will work together and work out any issues as they happen.”

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

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