About This Festival
Oh-key-cho-bee. You should definitely know how to say the name of the festival before you get there! The town of Okeechobee, north of the lake sharing its name, hosts the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival (OMF) in early March. Lake Okeechobee is the largest lake in the state of Florida and the second largest body of fresh water within the 48 contiguous states. In fact, the Seminole Indians who originally inhabited the area combined two native words to name it—"Oki" (water) and "Chubi" (big).
In its inaugural year of 2016, OMF welcomed 32,000 people to Sunshine Grove—a stat that the local CBS station calculates is about eight times the size of the entire city of Okeechobee. OMF is expected to be gain status as the largest camping music festival in the state of Florida.
The grounds themselves are divided into two primary areas—The Grove and Moonlight Oasis. The former, lined with subtropical flora, serves as the central part of the festival and includes the three main stages, aptly named BE, HERE, (and) NOW. The latter comprises the area surrounding those stages. The Moonlight Oasis encompasses the techno-only stage (Jungle 51), the on-site lake area known as Aquachobee Beach, and ChobeeWobee Village, which has yoga classes during the day and live performances art after dark. Plus, you'll find all of the food vendors (notably convenient for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are gluten-intolerant), places to lay out, and a Ferris Wheel to ride as the daylight fades over Central Florida.
Featuring 80 artists, bands, and DJs, OMF bucks the notion of programming exclusively within one genre. Headliners range from pop to folk and rock to rap, including Kings of Leon, Kendrick Lamar, Skrillex, Mumford & Sons, Usher with The Roots, Bassnectar, Omar S, DVS1, Kim Ann Foxman, and Ryan Elliott.
Okeechobee is also building a musical identity through its Gospel Soul Experience, as well as a partnership with the folks behind Bonnaroo's Superjam for their own version of the same: "PoWoW! A Live Superstar Mashup," featuring diverse performers joining forces for a spontaneous musical performance of improvisational jams and covers. 2016's inaugural PoWoW! included the likes of Arcade Fire's Win Butler, John Oates of Hall & Oates, the very-cosmic Miguel, Mumford & Sons' Marcus Mumford, saxophone star Kamasi Washington, and many more.
Okeechobee's founders came together to turn Sunshine Grove into a paradise for entertainment. Co-founder Paul Peck (formerly of Superfly Entertainment) told the Miami New Times that "We really want to create a place where people can have a little bit of a throwback experience — a ritualistic, joint, shared experience in a physical place," and they've achieved exactly that with the lakeside fest.
Peck got in touch with co-founder Steve Sybesma and told him he had to come see the property. "I kind of did it as a favor; I didn't think I was actually going to come back. I was probably going to connect him with my friends at Live Nation or AEG. After I saw the property, I said, 'Forget it. I'm going to do this myself,'" Sybesma told the New Times."I told him realistically, I'm probably not interested unless the property is absolutely exceptional," he says. "The second I saw it, I was like, 'drop everything — let's go do this." And in short, the fest...er...rest, is history.
Other industry vets hopped on board to help produce the fest and Okeechobee's early rise has been stellar. Peck added that "Burning Man is a reference point for what we're trying to accomplish." And his vision shows in what's become a beautiful Floridian escape for a diverse set of artists and attendees.