OKEECHOBEE — With less than a month to go before the 2017 Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival (OMF), festival organizers are busy getting everything ready for the big weekend. The festival will nearly double the population of Okeechobee County the first weekend in March.
Soundslinger CEO Kevin Collinsworth was the guest speaker at the February meeting of the Okeechobee Economic Council, on Feb. 2 at Indian River State College.
This year, they expect a crowd of 36,000 people for the camping festival, which runs March 2-5, he said, and improvements have been made on the festival grounds to accommodate them all.
Of primary concern were the two main complaints they had with the inaugural festival in 2016: noise and traffic.
Most of the noise complaints came from those who live west of the 848-acre Sundance Trails property, remanded “Sunshine Grove” for OMF.
Two sound engineering companies have been brought in. Audio experts chosen by the county worked on development of the county’s new sound level ordinance. Soundslinger’s own audio expert team developed ways to control the level of sound leaving the festival property including using audio equipment to “shape” the sound.
Since many factors — including weather and humidity — can effect the way sound travels, teams of audio experts will work round-the-clock over the festival weekend to monitor sound levels and address any complaints.
The other big complaint last year was about traffic backing up on Northeast 120th Street at the festival entrances, especially on the first two days of the festival. Mr. Collinsworth explained they have added a larger culvert in order to expand the entrance and provide more holding lane space for cars entering the property. He said last year they could hold about 100 cars in the holding lanes. This year, they will have capacity to stack 600-700 cars to get them off the road while they wait to check in.
Last year the festival had an economic impact of $16.4 million, and generated $1.5 million in state and local taxes, Mr. Collinsworth told the EDC members.
Okeechobee sheriff’s office and fire/rescue were paid $158,975 for festival coverage.
For the 2016 OMF, $52,286 was donated by the festival to local charities. Charities and non-profit organizations also earned money by running beverage booths at the OMF.
He said they were especially proud that HeadCount, a nonprofit voter registration organization, registered 1,000 new voters at 2016 OMF, the second largest number of new voters registered at any music festival in the United States.
This year, ten local charities will be involved, with booths in “Participation Row.” Also added this year, in addition to reimbursement for actual expenses such as the deputies and fire/rescue, Okeechobee County will receive $3 for every festival ticket sold.
Mr. Collinsworth said they have reached out to those who own property around the festival to do what they can to minimize impact on the neighbors.
This has included putting up more signs marking private roads and private driveways and even installing some gates.
He said the festival has reached out to local stores to help them plan for the invasion of festival fans who will want to stock up on supplies on their way to 2017 OMF. They have also set up a farmers market, and encourage food vendors to use local produce when possible.
Mr. Collinsworth also shared more good news with the Economic Council. Soundlslinger hopes to host another music event sometime later in the year.
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