Okeechobee Fest listed as a top music destination: sold out in its first year


It rivals mega music festivals Bonnaroo and is a visibly-cleaner version of Woodstock. Tonight, the first-ever Okeechobee Music Festival is sold out, drawing big crowds from across the nation and they've had to import officers to handle the influx.

In Okeechobee, the sheriff's office posted deputies at the main highway along most every road corner, and once inside, at every gate and then on golf carts in the masses of people.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office has made close to 40 arrests at this hour--mostly on those driving in with drugs or DUI'S. But if you consider the amount of people there, 40 is not high. They expect 32,000 people to come and stay for the weekend that is 8 times the size of the city of Okeechobee.

The festival features Mumford and Sons on Sunday, Kendrick Lamar, and Robert Plant. Founded by longtime music festival veterans Paul Peck (who got Bonnaroo off the ground) and Steve Sybesma (who runs China's largest electronic music festival), OMF is expected to be a sprawling appreciation of music and arts among the 800 acres at Sunshine Ranch.

There will be a stage situated on a swimming hole, and all-night dance parties through Sunday. Friday Night Darryl Hall and John Oates, and Robert Plant play for the college crowd, with side stages playing groups called O.Bee and Twiddle. Miguel and Kendrick Lamar play Saturday night, and Mumford and Sons headlines Sunday night.

Here's a list of the full schedule.

As for the 32,000 people attending the sold out festival, Okeechobee Sheriff's deputies say most arrests are made at the gate.

"The event staff have a preliminary search for bottles and things like that, then they take tickets and then we are doing a secondary search," said Undersheriff Noel Stephen, with the Okeechobee county Sheriff's Office.

Deputies randomly searched one in 250 cars upon entry, and they've found everything from street drugs to pills to heroin--making 40 arrests.

Then at each stage concert, all who enter are searched again inside the event.

"They do a couple searches also getting into the actual stage; they look through your bags and pat you down," said concertgoer Jane Smith, from Wisconsin.

The undersheriff admits, they need more people to handle the influx, and they've already brought officers in from seven departments.

"You know we've only go so many officers. And the traffic is coming in there and that secondary search takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on what's found. They stayed busy for 8 hours and we shut them down for 4 hours just to do their paperwork." Undersheriff Stephens said, noting they also have upset some of the locals, "we know we have some upset neighbors and we will work on that as we move forward."

Local businesses are packed, and by far offset any inconvenience said one owner too busy to talk, who said her sales at Subway tripled on Friday.

Once inside, there's no coolers allowed, no guns, and those in uniform are very visible.

But mostly, it's a crowd of smiles, putting Okeechobee on the map with young people, and even listed as a top-10 music destination city by The News York Times.

"Everybody is awesome. It's just a bunch of love here. That's what we do here is create positivity-positive vibes, no negative vibes," said Manuel Alegria, Okeechobee Fest ticketholder.

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