Festival Preview: Why you should make the trek to Okeechobee

By Amanda Cosenza

February 23, 2017

Last year, music fans were transported to another dimension at the inaugural Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. In a luscious plot of land north of Okeechobee Lake in Florida, festival organizers created an out-of-this-world experience for music fans. Attendees were greeted with a cosmic atmosphere and impressive line up of artists with a few surprises. One of those being the PoWow! jam session with Grammy winner Miguel, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, John Oates from Hall & Oates, and others.

The festival is returning for its second year with promises to exceed expectations. It is set to build upon the success of last year by boasting another impressive lineup with artists from a variety of genres. Attendees will also see the expansion of the festival’s spiritual programming and social action participation row. With a continued commitment to an extraordinary experience, Okeechobee is set to remain a fan favorite.

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Courtesy of Okeechobee. Photo credit: Christopher Loupas

We caught up with Dan Larson, the talent buyer and marketing manager for Soundslinger, the company behind the festival, to talk about what wonders this year’s festival will hold.

Music

The line up this year is stacked with big names from every genre. As one scans the schedule many acts stand out, like breakout artist like Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, fan demanded Space Jesus, and a set slotted for Usher and the Roots Saturday night. Boone, NC-based band Rainbow Kitten Surprise will also be making an appearance at the festival. Larson’s short list of who to check out includes Mac Demarco, the Growlers, and Merchandise.

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This year’s lineup also features a hand full of acts selected from 3,200 bands that competed in a nationwide battle of the bands. Selected by fans online, the top 36 bands went on a tour across six cities in Florida. In the end, six bands were added to the festival lineup. Dan indicated that he’s most excited about Yardij, the winners out of Miami; TRC, the winners of Tampa; and Gary Lazer Eyes, the winners of Orlando.

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Anderson .Paak at Hopscotch 2016. Photo by Ronald Stewart for CLTure.

From hosting a nationwide battle of the bands to curating the headlining acts, the booking process is a year-round process for Larson and his team. When asked about it, he told us that it’s all about giving the attendees what they want: “There are no rules, we just book good music. We look for what moves us and what is going to move our audience.”

Eats and Treats

From late night treats to cheesy eats the food at Okeechobee is sure to satisfy everyone from carnivores to vegans alike. This year’s food options will give everyone a taste of local Floridian vendors as well as a host of others from the Southeast. Jacksonville natives and family owned “What the Catch” will be serving up fresh pan seared Ahi Tuna tacos topped with fresh mango, toasted sesame seeds and a house soy drizzle. Satisfy your sweet tooth by trying a handcrafted POP dipped in gourmet Belgian chocolate and topped with nuts from Miami based HipPops. For the rough mornings, Asheville based Velvet Cup Coffee Truck will be there serving up espresso concoctions and fresh mini doughnuts. For the cheese lovers out there, be sure to check out Killer Melts for their BBQ Pork Melt with roasted pork, bbq sauce, onion rings, slaw, and melted cheddar cheese on toasted country or their Blue Cheese Fries featuring blue cheese sauce, bacon, balsamic glaze, and scallions. Attendees still trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions can enjoy fresh Acai, Poke, or Smoothie Bowls from Big Island Bowls. Health Freakz Cafe will be serving up a variety of carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free friendly paninis, smoothies, and specials. Check out the full list of food vendors in the Okeechobee mobile app.

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Photo by Zack Burkhart for CLTure

Experience

Well-maintained and manicured throughout the year, Sunshine Grove is a premier festival site on its own. In addition to its natural beauty, the festival organizers have added an abundance of whimsical experiences that enhance the escape into the “portal.”

Aquachobee Beach: Those venturing from the snow and cold of winter for their spring break will especially enjoy this oasis in the middle of the festival. Grab a fruity drink, take a daytime swim, or dance in the sand with friends at this sandy beach and water feature. On Saturday Thissongissick will even be hosting an all-day beach party.

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Courtesy of Okeechobee

Jungle 51: As Larson describes, this is where “Mars crashed into the Jungle.” It features a lush treeline that creates the feeling of being in the jungle, and is accompanied by a musical and visual experience that creates a cosmic, otherworldly atmosphere. Fans can even enjoy music in the jungle until six in the morning.

ChobeeWobee Village: Where creativity meets community. This area will host live artwork creation, a tea lounge with hammocks, creative art installations like the Megafauna, a large Wooly Mammoth like sculpture, and a participation row for social activism. This year national organizations like HeadCount and Clean Energy Advisors will be pairing up to give away prizes to visitors of participation row. Items like awesome limited edition pins, signed guitars, and others yet to be announced. The festival also partnered with a number of local nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Okeechobee County, Treasure Coast Food Bank, and The Warrior Center.

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Courtesy of Okeechobee

Yogachobee: A portal within the portal. Simply sip on a cup of tea or fully dive into a spiritual awakening. This area will host a plethora of yoga classes and uplifting workshops. New this year, the addition of the Healing Sanctuary and Earth Arts Academy will expand the space offering morning meditation, classes on Elemental Herbalism, live medicine music and more.

In addition to these unique experiences the festival will also feature a wide variety of food vendors, another star-studded PoWow!, and many other mystical experiences in Sunshine Grove. Larson indicated that he and the team have spent the year investing in all sorts surprises for attendees. The only way to know what these will be is by entering portal yourself!

More about Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival from March 2-5. 

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