Written by – Sarah Dickens
The air was crisp and cool, I laid wrapped up in a blanket on a half-deflated air mattress listening to the faint sounds of house music pouring out of Jungle 51 and laughter from those stumbling back to their campsites – that was the moment I knew… Okeechobee is magic.
Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival returned for its 3rd year at Sunshine Grove in Florida this last weekend and it’s true – the third time is a charm. The newly formed festival has been a fan favorite since its inaugural year in 2016 and it’s not hard to see why with 4 days of music, art, and camping to entertain thousands of attendees.
Okeechobee is nestled within the small rural county of Okeechobee, Florida. The town is a rather quiet, farming town until thousands upon thousands pour in for the magical festival. We flew into Fort Lauderdale and were able to utilize the festivals shuttle service. The festival offered shuttles through bus.com from most major Florida airports straight to the entrance providing hassle-free transport for out-of-state festival goers. Music, wine bags, and excitement filled the bus and started the weekend off on a high note.
The campgrounds were large and we had a site big enough for a car, a 10 person tent and a canopy. The neighbors were friendly and once settled it was time to start the weekend. The campgrounds were sprinkled with plenty of water-refill stations, (semi-clean) porta potties and food vendors.
The layout –
Okeechobee is set up, unlike any fest I have attended. Within the campgrounds, there were 5+ small stages, vendors, food trucks, art installations and a Ferris wheel. Including, my favorite stage – Aquachobee. Aquachobee was a smaller stage set up on the beach with cabanas, the Ferris wheel, vendors and a pirate ship surrounding it.The ambiance at Aquachobee was unmatched. There’s just something about listening to wubs under the blazing Florida sun with your toes in the cool, white sand.
The campgrounds also housed my favorite area to hang out and relax – The Tea Lounge. An Alice in Wonderland style chill spot nestled among tall palm trees complete with couches, hammocks and a variety of entertainment. When the sun was out, it was hot and the Tea Lounge was the perfect place to enjoy the shade, new music, and friends.
Inside The Grove sat the 3 main stages, BE. HERE. and NOW. It was a short walk through hammocks and palm trees to each stage and food vendors lined the area. The production for each stage was simple, the sound quality was fantastic and there was always enough room to dance.
The music –
Okeechobee is a multi-genre festival and brought huge names like Arcade Fire, Bassnectar, and Travis Scott. There was truly something for everyone and no genre was left out. With music going 24/7 the attendees were exposed to new and familiar sounds all weekend.
Bassnectar, Ganja White Night, Tipper and all of Sunday at the Aquachobee stage (it was a riddim takeover and amazing) were top sets for my group. Ganja White Night played live and even brought out Boogie T for their collabs Flavor and Reminisce – I ate a vegetarian poke bowl from Big Island Bowls during this set and it was life-changing.
Special recognition should be paid to the Pow Wow on Saturday night. Snoop Dog created the most fun set of the weekend. No matter what genre you were there to see everyone came together for a huge nostalgic dance party and had an absolute blast dancing along with Snoop.
The experience –
The music is the reason we go to festivals but the experience is the reason we return. Yoga, art, twerk workshops, jewelry making, meetups and so much more filled the weekend with unforgettable memories.
Once again, Okeechobee created spaces for people from all walks of life to come together and create together. The best part of the entire festival was simply roaming around and seeing what you would run into. For example, we found a live artist using black light paint while break dancing – he invited us to finger paint on their art and make our mark. Small moments like that take every festival experience to the next level.
Room for improvement –
With such a large festival bumps and inconveniences are expected. However, Okeechobee was one of the most organized and well-thought-out festivals I’ve attended. There are, however, a few things that can be fixed.
Water refill stations within the main stage area were always crowded and the lines made it almost not worth it. An added station near the NOW stage would alleviate some lines and make the process less of a headache.
The lines getting into the main stage area were 8 of 10 times crazy long and unorganized. The festival utilized metal detectors and security quickly checked bags but at some points, we were waiting thirty minutes plus in line to get in. Saturday night our entrance gave up allowing everyone to walk in with no checks in order to get rid of the long lines. An added entrance or more metal detectors would be a nice improvement for next year.
Overall, the weekend was magical and full of laughter, lessons and some of the best music I’ve ever heard. We entered the portal and come Monday no one was ready to exit. Okeechobee is still a baby and it will continue to grow – I personally cannot wait to attend again and watch this festival blossom to its full potential. If you love camping, good vibes, and unique experiences this is the festival for you. We here at Trillvo won’t miss a year from here on out.