Okeechobee Music Fest momentum grows

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Music Festival 2017 generated an additional $11 million in economic impacts to Okeechobee according to event promoters and organizers Soundslinger.

Kevin Collingsworth told the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners that the event in March generated $17.3 million in economic impact and paid $1.7 million in state and local taxes.

  • The 2016 impact was $6.4 million with $1.5 million in local taxes.
  • Okeechobee County received a $3 surcharge on each ticket sold, or $97,947.
  • The organizers paid for law enforcement and fire rescue services or $173,878.

The event raised over $100,000 for 12 local non-profit groups that included the Treasure Coast Food Bank, Martha’s House shelter for domestic violence victims, and the Warrior Center.

The event donated 4,000 pounds of food to the Warrior Center, and helped the Food Bank provide 170,000 meals to the community.

The Okeechobee BRAT Club was able to raise money to provide six, $500 scholarships this year to graduating seniors at Okeechobee High School.

Soundslinger officials said 32,500 tickets were sold, and 37,197 paid attendees were recorded at the festival. An estimated 41,000 people were on the site during the event.

County officials said despite the success, there were failures to contain noise impacts. There were eight complaints phoned into a special 800 number set up to receive complaints. The sheriff’s office received four complaints about the noise.

Collingsworth said they continue to look for ways to alleviate the noise impacts. These include changes in stage location and orientation. The goal is to send most of the noise to the north, north east where population is low.

“We are trying our best to bring this into a world class event and make Okeechobee part of that,” he explained.

Okeechobee got a tremendous amount of press from the event. Soundslinger suggested 6.71 billion readers online read something about the festival. They had 1.6 million Facebook items and 50 million Facebook impressions.

“We have some great momentum,” Collingsworth added.

Martha’s House Executive Director Jonathan Bean said the event was his agencies’ second largest fundraiser of the year.

Nick Blount of the Okeechobee United Way said the local community raised $128,000 in the past year to help serve local agencies.

Judy Miller of Big Brother Big Sisters said the concert goes by the motto, peace, love, and respect. “Our community is really benefitting by this.”

J.D. Mixon said the event exposes Okeechobee to a world-wide audience.

“There is no amount of web advertising that can give us this kind of opportunity.”

Attorney Katie Edwards represented a nearby land owner. She said there were likely more complaints than those phoned to the dispatch center and to the 800 number.

“You set decibel limits. Did we actually follow through and was it followed? If it wasn’t, why do it (the sound ordinance) again next year?”

A county consultant hired to study the noise impacts submitted their report less than 24 hours before the meeting. Commissioner David Hazellief said the decision should be tabled until they review the sound report.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said the benefits of this event outweigh the negatives. “People come here, have a good time, they leave money, we keep the money, until the next time we see them.”

The county staff, organizers, and all those involved will work to improve the festival and limit impacts from year to year.

“To be fortunate enough to host an event like this is a fantastic opportunity for Okeechobee,” he added.

Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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