by Steve Prendergast
Going out to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park usually means two things for me. One, I am going to see and hear some incredible music. Two, I am really going to enjoy the people watching. Both held true to form at the 2013 Hulaween. Yes, the music was incredible from start to finish. Every band played with passion and made us all dance away the time. The sound and lighting was impeccable at every stage. The set up crew really over did it with creativity when they transformed the area near the lake into a magical and mystical place. The new Spirit of the Lake Stage proved to be another great place to hear awesome bands play their hearts out. Well over half of all the festival goers dressed up in some form of Halloween costume at least once during the weekend. It was such a sight to see.
Another amazing thing that I witnessed that deserves noting is that of all the people I spoke with, not one person saw any fights or violence in any way throughout the duration of the 3 long days and nights of events. Over 7,500 people amass in the woods. Lots of drinking and carrying on takes place everywhere among the 700 plus acres. Yet all I did hear pertaining to violence was from one single person that he saw one guy get a little whacked out and security had to escort him away from the music.
That in of itself is quite surprising. I know that at most music festivals some people tend to over indulge themselves with alcohol and other forms of self medication. There always seems to be some riff raff who can’t handle themselves and violent outbursts are quite commonplace. Not this weekend. Not in the SOSMP. Not this year. Everyone I saw was smiling, singing, dancing, hula hooping, joking, laughing and being their merry selves all three days and nights.
I tried to learn a little more about why violence takes a back seat at String Cheese shows. I have observed that there are some common themes that can describe the Hulaween festival ticket holder, generally speaking. They are usually quite independent minded, self reliant and aren’t afraid a little dirt under their fingernails. Many times they might call each stranger they meet brother or sister. There is a strong community spirit about them and many will go out of their way to help a stranger in need. Some travel many miles to reach the hallowed ground where their favorite bands will play.
I met one particular group, who for the last four or five years have been meeting up a few times per year. They all originally met each other at festivals and they are from all over the country. They are from Colorado, New York, Michigan, Philadelphia, Vermont, and there are even a couple people from Florida. Anonymous # 1 stated to me that the one thing people just don’t get about festival goers is “the sense of community among the fans. Everybody helps each other out. If you need something, your neighbor’s got it, and you hook them up the next time. It just how it is out here”.
Another told me that this is his 25th String Cheese show and that he met someone at the Electric Forest Festival last year that had been to 190 String Cheese shows. He further mentioned that String Cheese fans will travel to the ends of the earth for some dancing and good times. For some of them, it is the first time ever going to the SOSMP. One of the ladies stated that “this is one the nicest venues I have ever been to. At Interlocken, we had to park 45 minutes away from the music and we weren’t able to choose where to camp.”
One guy said “I spend all of my money, time and energy on live music. It seems to be a collective problem around here.” As he said it, the whole group erupted in laughter and agreement. So, if this is going to end up being a recurring event during Halloween each year at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, I expect String Cheese Incident and their happy go lucky following to bring much joy and good times out here for many years to come.
by Steve Prendergast