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I came, I saw, I Okeechobeed.



I’ve never heard the words “ma’am” or “molly” so often until I was one of the oldest attendees at the Okeechobee Music Festival.

“You need any help with that tent ma’am?,” they guy with the multi-colored deer tattooed across his chest asked me. There was a turquoise diamond between the antlers

“I have to know. Where’d you get your necklace ma’am? I love it,” said the Michigan college student who I overheard earlier asking her tent mates who gave them the Molly the night before.

“Go ahead ma’am,” said the shower attendee when I asked if he could give a 48-year-old woman a break after learning I had to buy my $7 shower ticket at the general store two miles away.

I didn’t go by choice. The only thing my 17-year-old daughter Charlotte wanted for her birthday was to go to the music festival with her friend. She knew they wouldn’t be allowed to go on their own so would I please, please, please agree to take them?

When I finally said yes, I planned to stay at the historic Seminole Inn 45 minutes away in Indiantown. I would drop the girls off at noon and pick them up around 11:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Then the schedule came out. Headliner Munford & Sons wasn’t playing until 11 p.m. Sunday. Kendrick Lamar, the hottest rapper of the moment, didn’t go on until 11 p.m.  Saturday. So I decided to embrace my sense of adventure, alleviate all the late night driving on two-lane roads and just buy a ticket myself. That purchase includes free camping and unlimited use of ports-johns.

We arrived too late Friday night to put up the tent in the dark. We decided we’d sleep in the car and head out to the three main stages titled Be, Here and Now.

The girls went to their show while I saw Hall & Oates. “Smile Sarah” made me smile. “Rich Girl” brought back memories. I used to listen to it on my transistor radio in the tree house at age 12 hoping my mother wouldn’t overhear the lyrics “It’s a bitch girl” on her way back from the clothesline.

The weekend was full of sights and sounds.

The girls wearing only bikinis and a hula hoop which they spin around their waist, neck, arms and legs endlessly.Concert goers dressed in furry animal pajamas with features like rabbit ears or pig tails. The guys dancing by themselves, spinning in circles until they fall down. The folks sleeping it off in the hundreds of hammocks hung between trees that don't even budge with music blaring all around. The girl wearing only Bandaids over her nipples.

Is a bikini really too confining???

I saw a policeman chase a guy down right next to our tent. He grabbed him, tased him and handcuffed him to a golf cart another policeman brought for back up.

As they drove the shirtless, shoeless lawbreaker away someone among the tents called out: "It's okay. Jesus loves you."

I picked up plenty just listening to the chatter around our tent.

"Who gave us that Molly last night?"

"I don't own panties anymore. I used to buy 5 for $25 from Victoria's Secret but my dog always ate them. Clean or dirty."

"If I don't find drugs, they find me." Too bad deoderant didn't work the same way.

But drugs and risque outfits didn't dominate the Okeechobee scene. The endless acres of a rural ranch peppered with pine trees and groves of palms was filled mostly with friendly, fun people enjoying great music.

I discovered a couple new favorites: Jason Isbell and Miguel. I loved others I know better like Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Avett Brothers and Booker T. Jones.

I even went over to the Yogachobee tent for the "crystal Bowl sound bath." Prana and Amber Ashodian went around and gonged crystal glass around us to cleanse our chakras. I'm not sure if mine were fully cleansed becaus I couldn't really relax. 

Prana and Amber started 30 minutes late (because what is time, really?) and I was lying there wondering if I was going to have enought time to get through the long food lines in time to get a good spot for the Avett Brothers.

Finally I gave up on the crystal bath in favor of the grilled cheese sandwich with pesto and Roma tomatos and the cheddar and jelepeno hush puppies.

I think the weekend away from wi-fi, television, highways and society cleansed my chakras just fine. If not, I'm sure the long, hot shower I took when I finally got home to indoor plumbing did.

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