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Okeechobee Music Fest 2017 Rocks On With Sold-Out Crowd And Spirit Of Peace, Love And Brotherhood

Snarled traffic on both major highways and local roads made getting to the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival a crucible for some people. But once they finally passed through the "portals" into Sunshine Grove, they were instantly transported to a magical, mystical realm.

"The portals are real," proclaimed Denver resident Lauren Hahn about the four entrances to the festival grounds. "It was a whole new world. Even the trees cooperated, swaying in the wind like they were dancing while giving us shade from the sun. We came to camp out and listen to music, but this place is so much more.”

There seemed to be more of almost everything—including a record crowd and near-constant winds gusting up to 40 mph—at the second edition of the fledgling fest, which took place on 800 bucolic acres near Florida's biggest lake from March 2 though March 6.

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Two attendees display their festival garb in front of the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival logo.
Some lucky campers got to set up tents right near the action while others had to walk a mile or more.

Banking on the wild success of the inaugural event last year, a new team of organizers quietly increased the number of tickets from 30,000 to 36,000—and still sold out in advance. Yet there was plenty of room for everyone to mix and mingle in the camping areas, as well as by the concert stages in The Grove, and amidst the carnival-like atmosphere of the main activities spot, Moonlight Oasis.

Activities included a Ferris wheel, a virtual reality gaming center, nail-banging contests, mass yoga sessions and more. But for many, just hanging around in hammocks watching an endless parade of flamboyant festivalgoers was entertainment enough.

Of course, most people came for the tunes. Music ran the gamut from DJ Bassnectar's pulsating, multi-media extravaganza to sultry up-and-coming songstress Donna Missal to Doobie Brothers alumni Michael McDonald rocking out in an all-star "PoWoW" with special guests including singer Solange and the University of Miami choir. Among many other stellar artists, Usher performed with Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" band The Roots, and the Lumineers and Kings of Leon closed the show with rip-roaring back-to-back sets Sunday night.

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Groovin' in The Grove: Crowds were thick for concerts at the three main stages, Be, Here and Now.
Feel the beat: Matt Hill, drummer for the electronic funk duo The Floozies, bangs away on the Be stage Saturday.
Festivalgoers donned costumes to become part of the show.

But it was the peace, love and brotherhood vibe that most seemed to move the crowd. People were quick to help each other, whether setting up campsites, slinging hammocks for everyone to share, or just offering a high-five or fist-bump to a passing stranger to spread the good cheer.

"We came with no camping gear or any other supplies," said Kamra Hakim, who flew in from Brooklyn with friends. "Our first experience was one of generosity as people lent us a tent, and others have been feeding us."

This year, there were also more costumes. Ahead of the festival, tweets urged folks to dress up in animal onesies Saturday night. Attendees looked like overgrown kids as they strolled around in furry critter PJs like unicorns, pandas and walruses. The warmth and love was as palpable as the ubiquitous beat of music in the air, bringing out the best in everyone.

"I have not danced like this ever," gushed Hahn's boyfriend, Troy Frattalone. "I actually broke through a wall in the way I was able to express myself. It was a new experience for me. I guess that's what this place is all about."

For more from OMF17, view the photos below. 

La Grande Palma, in the center of Moonlight Oasis, was a nice place to make new friends.
Some 36,000 campers packed Sunshine Grove for the second annual event.
Young Jacob Collier played a host of instruments in a sensational one-man jazz set.
Mirror image: This guy provided visual effects just by carrying around a mirror.
Troy Frattalone and Lauren Hahn came all the way from Denver for the festival.
Hanging out: Part of the fun was just lounging in hammocks and people-watching.

(Photos by Gary Greenberg and Glen Greenberg)