Think of it as ‘Hurricane Music Festival’ of 2016

OKEECHOBEE — In less than a week, tens of thousands of visitors will pour into Okeechobee County for the first Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival.

It’s exciting for Okeechobee to be the location of a major music festival, but like any unknown, it’s also a little scary. Something big is going to happen, but we don’t know exactly what it will mean for our town. We’re in new territory.

Some people think the whole town will be swamped with music festival visitors. Some people think we won’t even know it is going on as the festival-goers won’t venture from their campsites 20 miles from town.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

My advice: Prepare for it as you would for a hurricane. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And keep your sense of humor.

When a named storm approaches the state, Floridians know what to do. We hope it won’t damage our area, but we plan for it anyway.

We can adapt those hurricane preparedness plans for this unknown.

So, before Thursday, March 3, my plan is to:

• Fill my car’s gas tank, in case there are long lines as the gas pumps during the festival weekend. The event is expected to double the county’s normal population and most of those visitors will bring cars. Lines for gas are bound to be longer.

• Buy groceries for the weekend in advance. If you normally go grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday, you might consider hitting the grocery store earlier during the week, to avoid the potential crowds.

• Consider the traffic patterns (as you might look at weather patterns during storm season). Most of the festival-bound traffic is expected to come south on U.S. 441 to S.E. 144th St. Traffic from the south and east will travel Berman Road. If there are any traffic jams, Facebook is bound to have lots of information and photos. Use the back roads to avoid the congested areas.

• Keep a positive outlook. While the summer storms usually bring high winds and heavy rains, the Music Festival will bring with it increased sales tax revenue, and a national spotlight on our little town.

• Smile: It’s just one weekend. A sense of humor is an essential part of any emergency preparation. If we can find the humor in patching a storm-damaged roof with Duct Tape while watching reports of another storm on its way — then we can find the humor in anything. Besides, you can be glad that you don’t have to put up hurricane shutters and you won’t have to fire up the generator.

• Consider it a valuable learning experience: As with a hurricane, once you have been through it once, you are better prepared for the future. For example, the first year I lived in Florida, I foolishly taped my windows in anticipation of a storm because I was told this would keep the glass from shattering. By the next time a storm threatened, I had plywood to cover the windows, and by the time I had lived here ten years, I had hurricane shutters.

This year, it’s an unknown. But it won’t be long before we’ll be old hands at this.

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