MIAMI – The Ultra Music Festival invasion is in full swing. Tens of thousands of electronic music fans, who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, are descending to Miami from all over the world for long days of thumping beats.
Some fans from Germany and China had a long flight before having to wait for about an hour in traffic to get to Virginia Key. Then they had to stand in line to go through security and once inside they had to walk about a mile from the Miami Marine Stadium to the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park.
"It's a journey but it's worth it," said Antonio Fernandez, who said he traveled from Buenos Aires, Argentina. "We wanted to be here for so long, so long and now we are here and it is a dream so we don't mind waiting. I will do anything for Afrojack. It's a dream."
Some have been going to Ultra annually for years at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, and they are adjusting to the change. Officer Michael Vega has worked with the Ultra crowd before, and he said he is enjoying his work so far.
"This year has been incredible," Vega said. "I mean, let's not jinx it. People are respecting a little bit more."
Law enforcement is out in force. They are on the air with drones and on Biscayne Bay with boats. The women are wearing glitter and shimmer. Some are carrying their country's flags.
"Everyone brings their flags because it's a way to remember that we are all one," said Ana Montez, who had her Mexican flag. "You get to feel the spirit of the communion of a space without war or fights or battles. We are all one here in peace and happiness. You know? It's a feeling you only feel at music festivals."
The fans are also using boats and ferries to get to the stadium's dock. The Coast Guard is out looking for illegal charters and they already stopped a yacht with violations.
For Key Biscayne residents, the festival's traffic meant it was going to take them longer than usual to get home on Friday. Most of the village's residents are not even thinking about leaving the key again until Monday when the festival will be over.
Environmentalists, marine biology students at the University of Miami campus and the Miami Seaquarium are concerned about the effects that the banging noise will have on the wild life.
"There are protected mangroves and a unique ecosystem here on the key," said Kurk Hansen, a University of Miami student.
As a response to their concerns, Ultra's organizers were promoting an environmental campaign, so that fans reduce the waste they leave behind during the festival. Ultra also has hundreds of buses at three stops to help fans cross the Rickenbacker Causeway.
The buses are making two stops: The Miami Marine Stadium area, where the main stage is, and the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, where the Resistance Island stages are. The DJs will play about 50 sets a day.
Miami Fire Rescue set up a center of operations at Mast Academy. They have paramedics on bicycles and small carts with all-terrain wheels. As of early Saturday morning, they had already responded to several calls to pickup festival goers who needed medical attention.
The three-day festival's second day begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and ends at 2 a.m. Sunday.
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