Wildwood officials slap down restrictions ahead of Zen Awakening Festival

On the eve of a large festival that caused problems last year, Wildwood officials have approved restrictions on the 100-acre Wildwood Recreational Park on U.S. 301.

The Zen Awakening Festival, scheduled Friday through Sunday, caused excessive noise last year and city officials hope the new restrictions will prevent the same problems this year.

Commissioners approved an ordinance Monday night that spells out requirements for park events such as the Zen Fest.

City Administrator Jason McHugh said the park must get a special permit for large events under the ordinance.

“If they violate the conditions, they won’t get another permit,” he said.

The Zen Fest is described on the Internet as “Florida’s only transformational music and arts festival,” featuring disc jockeys, jam bands, yoga, meditation, spiritual teachers, a drum circle and group chants. This year’s event also includes camping and a soapbox derby.

Last year, festival noise could be heard three miles away. Neighbors complained that drums beat 24 hours a day, overpowering their television sets.

Two Georgia men were arrested at last year’s festival, one for riding in a stolen dune buggy and the other for cocaine possession.

The ordinance sets maximum noise levels, hours of operation and requires advance notice of special events. Cash bonds of $1,000 to $6,000 are required for special events and, if police respond to complaints, the event sponsors could be assessed fines. They also may be required to hire off-duty police officers for security.

Besides Zen Fest, the park also hosts off-road events such as races, mud bogging and a rock crawl obstacle course. Other events include concerts, motorcycle rallies, monster truck pulls and motocross races.