By Katie Kennedy
March 18, 2016
A couple weeks ago, I kicked off my festival season of 2016 at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. This was the inaugural year and, as an avid festival attendee, I went in excited with expectations of having a good time. These expectations were far exceeded and I had the best festival experience yet. A ten-hour drive from Charlotte led us to Sunshine Grove in South Florida, which would hold 30,000 attendees over four days with five stages provided for over 100 artists of all sorts bringing in an eclectic crowd full of upbeat energy and happiness.
Waking up everyday to the warm Florida sun held a new adventure. Days would begin eating breakfast with some of the friendliest neighbors before cruising over to lounge by the beach all day until nighttime. Or sometimes, I’d just head straight into Jungle 51, where you could hang your hammock and drink Coronas with friends. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly as well as security, creating a safe and comfortable environment. Robert Plant let out a signature Zeppelin scream and the PowWow was unforgettable.
If you have thought about what festivals you might be hitting next year, Okeechobee should find itself at the top of your list. It is any music festival goers dream for reasons that you should find out by experiencing yourself, but I’ll give you the rundown.
1.) Location, Location, Location
The beautiful South Florida weather is just the start. It was such a relief compared to past festivals where the beating sun made it nearly impossible to sleep past 6am. Any festival goer knows the luxury of a good night’s (or morning’s, depending on your style) sleep. Once inside the venue, the comfort continues with plenty of shade provided by palm trees where it was no problem to hang your Eno and watch live music. Oh, and watching Hermitude and a famous Florida sunset at the same time wasn’t too bad either.
The max capacity of Sunshine Grove is 35,000 partygoers; however the smart producers of the festival decided to cap of ticket sales at 30,000. I have conspired that the people who put this festival together are a group of festies who sat down and collaborated on what a perfect experience would be. Want to make it front row to Hall and Oates? Easy peasie! The smaller crowds equaled a more comfortable time. None of that pushing and shoving or claustrophobic feelings that can be expected from a sold out music festival. The environment everyday felt like one big happy festival family.
That. Lineup. Was. Stacked.
Robert Plant, Bassnectar, Hall and Oates, Kendrick Lamar, Big Grams, Odesza, Big Gigantic, Mumford and Sons, Future– that’s just to name a few. Every night held something special and great and, for most, not too many schedule conflicts. Even with schedule conflicts, stages are within about a five-minute walk from each other, making it easy to bounce around and hear everything you want!
4.) Food Truck Heaven
Few things in life are better than indulging in a slice of Spicy Pie after dancing and singing all night long. Very few things. Well, maybe besides loaded BBQ pulled pork French fries by Aquachobee. Okeechobee food vendors could appease anyone, and most had at least 2 vegetarian/vegan options! All very reasonably priced and I had trouble finishing most of my meals by myself.
A combination of all of these things plus thousands of people walking around exuding positive energy for four straight days is Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. I can honestly say I left Monday morning with 30,000 more friends than I started with. What a great first year.
More photos from Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016