Stop, collaborate and listen! If you’re fancy like Applebee’s, you’ll want to make plans to be in Ocoee this weekend for the Ocoee Music Festival.
The festival is back after two years, and nine performers in the hip-hop and country genres will entertain guests Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9, at an event that also will include carnival rides, marketplace and food vendors, and a 5K.
The festival (formerly Ocoee Founders' Day Festival) continues its dedication to celebrating Ocoee’s small-town traditions with music, community, small businesses and fun.
Guests can enjoy a variety of festival food, children’s carnival rides, a marketplace, beer garden and multiple hip-hop and country musical performances.
Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson is thrilled to see the annual festival return and thinks attendees will like what is being offered this year. The response has been overwhelming, he said — all of the marketplace and food vendor spaces are filled, and the city has sold out the preferred-seating option for Saturday night.
In the past 26 years, the city has seen the festival grow from a few hundred attendees to 20,000. Johnson loves how the event has expanded through the years, and he said he has heard from many people who are planning to travel to Ocoee for the weekend.
“We have people from Key West who two months ago made reservations for Friday night,” he said.
The festival always has been presented with a focus on country music, but, this year, the Friday night lineup is full of hip-hop acts.
On Friday, headliner and ’90s icon Vanilla Ice will take the stage. Joining him will be hip-hop artists Rob Base, Tag Team, Tone Loc and Freedom Williams of C&C Music Factory. On Saturday, country music stars Russell Dickerson and Walker Hayes will perform their hits along with Matt Stell and Will Banister.
“We changed around the music for variety,” Johnson said. “Maybe next year we’ll have classic rock (on Friday night). We’re going to try to change it every year. We just want it to be where people can enjoy themselves.”
To ready himself for the music on the first night, Johnson and his wife, Marilyn — who typically listen to classic rock and the rock-and-country band the Mavericks — played some Tone Loc.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said.
Johnson hopes to see a full crowd both days.
“It’s for the benefit of everyone, not just Ocoee,” he said. “As long as we can get sponsors, we’ll keep doing this.”
All of the acts on Friday night have had multiple top hits in the rap/hip-hop music scene going back as far as the 1990s. The award-winning performers have continued their singing careers and appearances, and they and their music have been on numerous television shows and films.
Robert Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, hit the radio in 1990, selling 10 million albums in four months and hitting No. 1 on the Billboard charts with “Ice Ice Baby.” His worldwide album sales are more than 15 million and individual songs total more than 160 million.
Vanilla Ice won two MTV Awards and a People’s Choice Award and was nominated for a Grammy Award. He has had great success in real estate and has launched Vanilla Ice Real Estate.com. His current TV show, “The Vanilla Ice Project,” on DIY won The Factual Award for the Best Home TV Show.
Rob Base first began performing with various groups before forming Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock with his childhood friend. Their second album produced three Top 10 hits: “It Takes Two,” “Joy and Pain” and “Get On The Dance Floor,” which reached No. 1.
In the last 30 years, Rob Base has continued to make his mark in the hip-hop and freestyle worlds.
Rapper Anthony Terrell Smith, who goes by the stage name Tone Loc, is known for his hit songs "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina," for which he was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Tone Loc's debut album, “Loc-ed After Dark,” was released in 1989. The video for the first single, "Wild Thing," became a staple on MTV and rose to No. 2 on the U.S. Hot 100. The second single, "Funky Cold Medina," reached the Top 5 in the U.S.
Currently, he is among the list of performers on the I Love the ’90s tour, which features some of the most iconic figures in rap, hip hop and R&B.
Tag Team introduced their debut single "Whoomp! There It Is" in 1993. Not too long afterward, DC Glenn (DC the Brain Supreme) and Steve Gibson (Steve Rolln) were No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and at the top of the Billboard sales chart.
To date, Tag Team has sold millions of singles and 1.5 million albums worldwide. Today, the group frequently books for NBA halftime shows.
C&C MUSIC FACTORY
With more than 8 million units sold, “Gonna Make You Sweat” can still be heard today.
As the front man and co-founder of the international multi-platinum selling group C&C Music Factory, Freedom Williams has traveled and performed around the world. He wasn't just a watcher of hip-hop culture; he was one of the innovators and early hands-on creators.
The group has five No. 1 dance/club play hits: “Gonna Make You Sweat” (Everybody Dance Now), “Rock N Roll,” Things That Make You Go Hmmm,” "Just a Touch of Love" and “Do You Wanna Get Funky” in the early to mid 1990s.
Freedom is currently working on film projects, community activism and new music.
The four country acts have racked up an impressive number of country music honors on the record charts and received numerous top awards in the music industry.
Russell Dickerson is a multiplatinum Nashville-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who sings about the small pleasures — familiar pleasantries exchanged between neighbors, the taste of freshly brewed sweet tea, the brush of a fall breeze and the buzz of a bug zapper after dark — on his second full-length album, “Southern Symphony.”
In 2017, his gold-certified debut, “Yours,” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and No. 1 on the Emerging Artists Chart. It also yielded three consecutive No. 1 smashes: “Yours” (christened “one of the hottest wedding songs of the year” by The Knot), “Blue Tacoma” and “Every Little Thing.”
Singer-songwriter artist Walker Hayes’ recent EP “Country Stuff” includes the platinum smash hit “Fancy Like,” which has topped every country streaming and sales chart since its release and has spent eight weeks and counting at the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs. Called “the song of the summer” by “The Today Show,” the track is now in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs. Propelled by the TikTok dance Hayes made to the song with his teenage daughter, “Fancy Like” has been used more than half a million times on the app, with that original, homemade video racking up more than 30 million views and being used in a national Applebee’s campaign.
Hayes’ debut album “Boom” led Billboard to praise his “personal, soul-bearing storylines, rolling rhymes and Macklemore-like cadence.”
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Matt Stell played as the lead singer of the band The Crashers. During this time, he released three albums independently: “The Sound & the Story,” “Vestibule Blues” and “A River Through It.”
Stell is a platinum-certified singer who reached country music success with the love song “Prayed for You,” which spent two weeks at the No. 1 spot. As the only debut single to top Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2019, the hit has racked up more than 270 million streams and his first platinum certification.
His other hits include “Everywhere but On” in 2019 and “That Ain’t Me No More” in 2021. In October, Stell released the song "Boyfriend Season,” slated for inclusion in an upcoming album.
Will Banister grew up with the sounds of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, George Strait and Brooks and Dunn, which made a huge impact in shaping the sound of his songs. His latest album, “Everything Burns,” consists of 11 songs, 10 of which were either written or co-written by Banister, and was announced as album of the month in an edition of the U.K. publication Country Music People Magazine. His latest single, "Ain't That The Truth," reached No. 38 on the Texas Country Music Chart.