In 2016, the city of Okeechobee, known for its quiet countryside and friendly locals, became home to Soundslinger’s Okeechobee Music & Art Festival at Sunshine Grove. After a successful inaugural event, the festival returned for a second round March 3-5 and appears to be here to stay.
Music fanatics and students from all over South Florida, the state and country came together for a weekend of concerts, creativity workshops and art.
Carlos Morales, 22, a funds operation associate at Moto Capital and music festival veteran from Kendall, was happy to enjoy an event relatively close to where he lives.
“I’ve gone to Bonnaroo in Tennessee, which is a 13-hour drive. Okeechobee Fest is two hours away. It was great to only take one day off of work,” he said.
Having attended South Florida music festivals such as Ultra and Sunfest, Morales was determined to further diversify his music playlist. In doing so, he hoped that his first time attending Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival would also provide him an array of new experiences.
“It was magical. Okeechobee Fest captured the perfect mix of rap, EDM, and alternative music,” he said. “There was something for everyone to do. I gave yoga a try. Everyone was nice and I was catching everyone’s good vibes. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
The Okeechobee event featured largely known talents such as Kings of Leon, Flume, The Lumineers, Wiz Khalifa, Bassnectar, Young the Giant and Waka Flocka Flame.
Ben Baruch, lead talent buyer for Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, booked artists for all three main stages in Sunshine Grove — “Be,” “Here,” “Now” — as well as the stage in Aquachobee Beach. He organized the special performances, keeping in mind the diverse following they would attract.
“No one in the team wanted to create a one-genre specific festival,” he said. “When I was going to festivals as a kid, one of my favorite things of going was discovering new music. I wanted to do the same thing with Okeechobee Fest.”
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival easily became an alternative for Floridians itching to attend large scale festivals similar to that of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California.
Unlike many of the long-established music festivals in South Florida, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival offers a three-to-four day camping experience. Apart from the main music lineup, each day of the festival has a back-to-back schedule of events at walking-distance from the camp sites.
For those who sought to escape the on-stage music scene, Chobeewobee Village was the go-to site for lounging around. From creative activism workshops to body marbling, one could spend the whole day exploring the area and interacting with the art installations while shopping for artisanal merchandise to take home.
“This festival stands out because you can see and feel the love, care and passion that goes into curating the event,” Baruch said. “Our team is small, but mighty. We work with highly skilled, creative, and inspiring visual artists who ideate and construct all of the stunning art installations throughout Sunshine Grove.”
Amid all the art, attendees could relieve some post-weekday stress through Yogachobee’s packed schedule of meditation, thai massages, and sound healing. For the night owls, Jungle 51 offered a lineup of techno music from sundown to sunup.
“We really feel as though we’ve revitalized something in the Florida music culture that has been missing for some time,” Baruch said.