With tropical weather that makes people go crazy, it makes sense that one of the world’s largest EDM festivals would be hosted in Miami.
Founded by music promoters Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes in 1999, the festival has been in South Florida since the late ‘90s, starting out small and slowly growing into the massive event we know it as today and eventually made stops in countries like South Korea, South Africa, and Mexico.
At its inception, the event was held on Miami Beach before it switched between multiple South Florida locations until finding a home at Virginia Key this year.
The change was imminent. With City of Miami officials refusing to renew the festival’s longtime contract with Bayfront Park, the event was forced to move a couple miles east.
The switch wasn’t welcome, and it became apparent that the weekend would be a smooth experience, as planned.
One of the biggest issues on opening weekend were the logistics of moving thousands of people from mainland Miami to the small island of Virginia Key, located just off the Rickenbacker Causeway.
From day one, Ultra’s logistical issues were very clear: traffic jams, lack of transportation, and thousands of people stranded without a way to get home at 2 a.m. pretty much summed up the weekend event. Concert organizers failed to properly alert people of the upcoming changes, thus causing massive delays and human pile-ups on the first day of the festival.
Parking was not allowed on the island for fear that it would crowd the Rickenbacker Causeway, leaving people with the only option of taking a ferry, that cost $150 per ticket, or one of the free shuttles that would transport them to mainland transport hubs at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The latter was nearly impossible to use, seeing as the festival also ran concurrent with the popular bike ride Critical Mass which also took up lanes on the Causeway during the festival’s peak hours.
The side effects of all of this were people forced to either walk home or wait it out a few hours until some form of transportation came and escorted them back to the safety of their cars or shuttles.
The issues got so bad that Ultra organizers had to issue a statement saying that the traffic problems were unacceptable and not up to their standards. These outside distractions led to an entirely different event in comparison to previous years.
Certain stages lost its wiggle room, leading to cramped spaces and what was described as a “carnival feel” rather than full-blown EDM experience they were looking for. Bayfront Park has about 32 acres compared to Virginia Key’s 15. Because of the downsizing, that made the main stage (filled with headlining acts like, Zedd, Marshmello and Martin Garrix) feel small, and cramped, making the concert scaled back compared to other years. In the end, most festival attendees were left disappointed and left wanting more. The traffic issues outside didn’t make anything better, spoiling the event behind repair.
What should’ve been a joyous occasion for south Florida residents and EDM lovers turned out to be a bit of a dud. Let’s hope the next year’s festival won’t suffer the same fate.