Music Festivals

Ten Tips for Navigating Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival Like a Pro

Let it all hang out at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival.
Let it all hang out at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Herb Gonzalez / LionTheLion
Just as there are good and bad music festival lineups, there are also music festival attendees who run the gamut from outstanding humans to absolute trainwrecks. As told from the perspective of a seasoned festival pro, here are ten tips on living your best life at this year’s Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival (OMF). 
click to enlarge Okeechobee's resplendent Ferris wheel. - HERB GONZALEZ / LIONTHELION
Okeechobee's resplendent Ferris wheel.

Enjoy the Splendor

OMF's venue, Sunshine Grove, is a vast, beautiful tract of land. There are plenty of open spaces for stages, vendors, and neon-colored LED Hula-Hoop-ing, but there’s also a small beach, a lakefront, and plenty of wooded areas. The last gives the fest a summer-camp-like vibe: Most mornings, you'll wake up to temperatures in the low 60s before the warmth of the sun quickly sends temps into the high 70s for the duration of the day. Soak it all in, because you'll be back to the daily grind before you know it.

Pack Wisely

Many South Floridians are soft as an uncooked Pop-Tart. So be sure to pack blankets and hoodies for the chilly nights. You’ll be fine running around half-naked during the day, but in the evening, you'll want to sleep comfortably, and you can’t always rely on the residual warmth of passing out drunk or high. It’s probably worth checking out OMF's site for the long list of items allowed and prohibited

Stay Hydrated

You’ve heard of moderation, right? It might sound middle-aged-dad-like, but do you really want to miss Derrick May or Vampire Weekend's late-night sets because you went too hard too soon during Bob Moses or Flatbush Zombies and fell asleep under a tree? Stay hydrated between shots of whatever gut-burning liquor you stumbled upon during your travels. OMF will provide several water-refill stations, both in the campgrounds and near the stages. 
click to enlarge Thron down hard but responsibly. - HERB GONZALEZ / LIONTHELION
Thron down hard but responsibly.

Safeguard Your Stuff

Lock. Your. Shit. Down. Although most of the people at this fest are superchill, as in life, there's always a group of dickheads scheming to inconvenience you to serve their own ends. If there’s anything you cannot afford to lose, lock it in your car or, at the very least, lock your tent. If you're doing things right, you'll be away from your campsite for hours at a time, and nine times out of ten, you won't encounter any thefts. But it’s that tenth time when purses, wallets, or electronic devices mysteriously vanish.

Bring Power to the People

Speaking of electronic devices: We all know how important it is to chronicle and photograph every goddamn second of a concert or a festival. (But, seriously, don't do that.) Therefore, bringing a portable charger isn’t a terrible idea. That being said, since year one, Okeechobee has done an excellent job of providing phone-charging stations, and it's reasonable to expect more of the same in 2020. As for cell reception and Wi-Fi, well, that’s another story. Download any maps you might need in advance, as well as the Okeechobee Music Festival app, which includes tons of info about the artists and the site. 
click to enlarge Where's your head? - PHOTO BY AMADEUS MCCASKILL
Where's your head?
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Feed Your Head

Whether the quality is real or imagined after hours of dehydration, festival food usually tastes amazing. OMF doesn’t skimp in this regard either. Even better, the fest offers 24-hour food options as well as a 24-hour general store. However, in the wee hours, when legs are tired and brains are mush, most of us make a beeline for our tents and campsites. In this instance, quick snacks such as Clif Bars, protein shakes, beef jerky, and other nonperishables come in handy. 
click to enlarge Freaky fashion - PHOTO BY AMADEUS MCCASKILL
Freaky fashion
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Make Fashion Functional

You’ll need a way to carry all of the gear you plan to take to OMF. A CamelBak hydration pack is a reliable resource because it allows you to store a ton of water and various supplies, but you might wanna liven things up a bit. Thankfully, fanny packs are back in fashion and, yes, they are allowed. Glitter that bad boy up and make sure it's color-coordinated with your barely-there outfit.
click to enlarge Eerie pagan ritual or late-night set at Okeechobee's Jungle 51 stage? You decide. - HERB GONZALEZ / LIONTHELION
Eerie pagan ritual or late-night set at Okeechobee's Jungle 51 stage? You decide.

Stay Up Late

Sunshine Grove abounds with natural beauty, but OMF doesn’t get truly visually arresting until darkness falls and all the neon-colored lights glow. Definitely save up some energy and hang out at the Jungle 51 stage before going to bed: It’s like stumbling upon a weird pagan ritual where the witches have morphed into DJs.

Wake Up Early

OK, the last paragraph just told you to stay up past your bedtime, but you'll sleep when you're dead. And, no, this is not to suggest you wake up early for yoga, though it is absolutely an option at OMF. Waking up early almost ensures you will be one of the first butts in the freshly cleaned porta-potties. There’s nothing like an early-morning dump to make way for all the wonderful poison a new day promises. 
click to enlarge It's all love at Okeechobee. - HERB GONZALEZ / LIONTHELION
It's all love at Okeechobee.

Be Cool

Amateur filmmakers recording entire performances with their phones in the air; vapers Juuling and not realizing what an asshole that makes them; couples on E practically having sex at your feet; hotheads somehow finding a reason to fight during Glass Animals. Yeah, a lot of people suck. But that won’t be you, will it? Be cool, and even if everyone else isn’t following the unspoken rules of etiquette, your coolness will mellow them out. And if that doesn’t work, take comfort in the fact that at least you are not them.

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2020. With Vampire Weekend, Bassnectar, Mumford & Sons, and others. Thursday, March 5, through Sunday, March 8, in Sunshine Grove, 12517 NE 91st Ave., Okeechobee. Tickets cost $279 to $599.99 via
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you.
Contact: Angel Melendez