The Ultra Music Festival is here with three upcoming days of electronic music this weekend and the ensuing throngs of an estimated 60,000 concert goers daily.
With this being the first time the event is staged on Virginia Key, questions remain about environmental consequences and public safety.
But one thing is certain: Ultra will bring heavy traffic and has the potential to create massive vehicular congestion on the Rickenbacker Causeway and extending roadways to and from the island.
The traffic issues are critical because the causeway is the lifeline to the mainland for Key residents. Projection estimates are at least double the traffic of the recent Miami International Boat Show, and triple the daily traffic experience from the former Miami Open Tennis Tournament at Crandon Park.
Key Biscayne is not the first community to feel the invasion of a large scale music festival. Fifty years ago, in spite of local residents’ concerns, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in Bethel, New York. Although legendary, Woodstock only happened one time.
“How can we cope?”
Ultra will be inconvenient. It will be a challenge to deal with. But it need not rock our comfortable island lifestyle. Here are several suggestions for coping strategies.
”Stay away from mental stories and keep centered in present experience.”
This advice got me through my first seven day meditation retreat. My legs were hurting from sitting meditation for 12 hours a day. I confided to the teacher: “I don’t think I will be able to continue for three more days.” “How are you feeling right now?” I was asked. I thought for a moment. “Right now I am okay, but I am worried about how I will feel tomorrow.” “Just stay in the present experience and do not worry about tomorrow,” I was told.
With the event upon us the least effective coping strategies are anger and lack of acceptance.
“Why are they coming here...What is the traffic plan...What about the noise???”
These questions were appropriate during the permitting process and could be helpful to express within the context of Village of Key Biscayne and city of Miami official public forums. But with time out remaining before the scheduled start, opposition is not likely to be fruitful and could be detrimental to a healthy and tranquil state of mind.
Coping Strategy #1: Acceptance. Ultra is here. Make plans to stay on the island for the weekend. If you work off island make arrangements to work from home if possible. For entertainment on Friday and Saturday evening, City Theatre will present several short plays in the Community Center at 7:30 PM and a “ton of laughs” are guaranteed. Sounds like a perfectly good remedy for stress.
Coping Strategy #2: Keep in mind that Ultra is about contemporary music and young adults having fun. The organizers have a recent history of running a well-organized event.
Coping Strategy #3: If you find yourself stuck in traffic, remain detached and try to simply become aware. Take notice of the concert goers. Try imagining their experience. Notice their clothing and general behavior…anything to lower the volume of a negative mental story. For instance “Why is this happening to me?” is not helpful in reducing stress. Perhaps you can hope for them a safe and memorable experience.
Coping Strategy #4: If you are impacted by the traffic, and if conditions permit, try documenting the situation by creating an audio/video record that may even be useful in the future. Conduct an impromptu interview with yourself. “How is this affecting me?” “How do I feel about this right now?”
It is too late to prevent this year’s festival but it’s not too late to embrace the opportunities the experience can offer. Plan ahead. Turn down the volume on any negative mental stories. If you find yourself caught in traffic…try to feel the vibe and be at peace and in harmony with the present moment. It might happen here only once.