OKEECHOBEE — After each music festival, an unbelievable amount of camping equipment and supplies is left laying on the ground, abandoned. Gregg Maynard is normally tasked with gathering these supplies and making sure they go to people who need them the most. This year, Mr. Maynard estimates there was about 3,800 pounds of equipment left behind after the crowds went home.
They leave everything you could imagine behind: Canopies, tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, anything you might take camping gets left behind, he said. They leave the things because most of them fly in or carpool to the site, and they have no way to get the things home again, so they buy them and just leave them. Sometimes they find really odd things out there, Mr. Maynard said. They once found a bicycle and a wheelchair. The wheelchair had a JetBlue tag on it. “It makes you wonder where the guy went without it,” he said.
He arranged for a few other people to come out and pick up supplies they needed. One woman, who helps the homeless, rented a U Haul to carry things away. Mr. Maynard took some things to Bruce and Maryann Swinford, with Big Lake Missions. He took some coolers and things to Leah Suarez, of Our Village, because she has been doing food drives and feeding many in the community. He took canopies and other items to Bernard Marker for use with the Special Olympics. He still has a storage unit full of things to give out and plans to head to Key West to give them away, as soon as the virus runs its course, and he can take care of it. There are quite a few homeless people down there, he said.
“There are not that many homeless in Okeechobee, and the ones we do have usually have a tent already.” He did give a lot of stuff to the Swinfords to give out in Okeechobee, because they are usually the first to know when there is a homeless person in need. Before he heads to the Keys, he plans to do one more round in Okeechobee checking to see if anyone needs anything here, he said.
It may seem strange to buy these things and leave them behind, but the cost to buy them is probably less than paying for a motel room for the nights the music fest is in town, and they get to stay right in the middle of the action.