Ultra main stage. Photo Credit: Hunter Crenian / Shutterstock.com
**Update 03/06/2020: Due to the coronavirus epidemic, this event was cancelled by the Ultra organizers per the City of Miami’s request.**
If you’ve never been to Ultra Music Festival, you are missing out! The Festival has been voted twice (in 2016 and in 2017) as the World’s Best Festival by DJ Magazine.
Over the course of three straight days, electronic and dance music can be heard blaring all day and night. People from all over the globe come and enjoy the different DJs and artists that make an appearance at this festival of electronic dance music. The heat and humidity of Florida is certainly not something that stops over 100,000 people from coming year after year.
Often abbreviated UMF, the festival is an annual outdoor event that takes place during March in Miami, Florida, United States. It was founded in 1999 by business partners Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes. It is named after Depeche Mode’s 1997 album Ultra. The first festival had 10,000 people attend. Faibisch and Omes saw a $10,000 to $20,000 financial loss during the festival’s inaugural year nonetheless. In March 2000, however, the festival proved to be a huge success, and was renewed for a third year.
It was first held in Miami Beach at Collins Park, but since 2006 has been primarily held at Bayfront Park in the heart of downtown Miami. (More on the festival’s current location to come later.) It started out as a one-day festival from 1999 to 2006. Since 2011, however, it has gone on for three straight days from Friday through Sunday.
This year, the party is tentatively happening March 20, 21 and 22. Ultra makes its way back to Bayfront Park this year after a controversial stint at Virginia Key Beach last year.
Attendees of this event get a once-in-a-lifetime chance at an immersive electronic dance music experience. A wide variety of music from a multitude of genres blare through the loudest speakers on Earth, such as progressive house, big room, techno, trance, dubstep and of course electronic/dance. Popular songs (as well as some celebrities) might make a cameo at Ultra’s main stage. DJs from around the world such as David Guetta, Afrojack, Major Lazor and Marshmello are staples at this event and know how to get the crowd pumped and dancing throughout the night.
Check out David Guetta at Ultra 2019.
Attendance at Ultra has rapidly grown over the years. In 2012, a record attendance of 155,000 people from all over the world attended the festival. For its 15th anniversary in 2013, the festival took place during two separate straight weekends on March 15–17, 2013, and March 22–24, 2013; attendance for both weekends came in at a whopping 330,000 people. The festival returned to its usual single-weekend format in 2014. Pre-sale tickets sold out in less than five minutes.
Ultra’s existence and history has been a challenging and troubled one respectively, despite its popularity, ability to display state-of-the-art pyrotechnics and growing yearly attendance.
The trouble started in 2013 for the 15th anniversary special. On January 7, 2013, organizers requested additional road closures for the event. Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff proposed a resolution calling for disapproval of the second weekend. Sarnoff believed a second weekend for the festival was going to be “disruptive to the local business community and area residents due to noise, nuisance behavior of festival-goers and grid-lock traffic.” The City approved the second weekend anyways due to the number of people that attend the festival each year. The organizers were charged for police and fire services.
In 2014, a security guard was left in “extremely critical” condition after being trampled by a crowd of people attempting to gatecrash the festival by breaking down a chain-link fence.
After the gatecrashing incident in 2014, there was some doubt as to whether or not Ultra would still be held at all. Ultra organizers maintained that the 2015 edition would still be held from March 27–29, 2015. On April 24, 2014, Miami commissioners voted 4 to 1 against banning the festival, allowing Ultra to remain in downtown Miami for 2015.
On January 12, 2015, Ultra co-founder Alex Omes died of a drug overdose at age 43. Omes had left the organization previously in 2010.
On September 27, 2018, the City of Miami commissioners voted unanimously against allowing the festival to be hosted at Bayfront Park due to complaints about noise and other concerns from downtown residents.
In November 2018, festival organizers proposed moving Ultra to the barrier island of Virginia Key, using the Virginia Key Beach Park and areas near the Miami Marine Stadium as venues. The proposal was met with resistance from officials in near-by Key Biscayne, citing the possibility of safety, noise, and environmental concerns. Increased traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway was a major concern as well.
On November 15, 2018, the Miami commissioners successfully voted in favor of allowing Ultra to be held on Virginia Key.
It is worth it to come to this amazing festival at least once in your life. You will not regret it nor be disappointed if you go.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.