It has been sad for me watching how Halloween has slowly been changing from the way it used to be when I was a kid. Fewer and fewer children go out on a spooky night at the end of October to knock on their neighbors’ doors in the search for candy. One thing that has helped ease the pain of the slow death of trick-or-treating has been the rise of what is now the largest festival of the year for the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Since 2013, when the String Cheese Incident moved their Hulaween show to the SOS Music Park, the event has morphed into the huge draw that it is today.
I have written about the many talented musical acts that grace the various stages for this event before. This year, I would like to focus on all of the many things that are not music that make the Hulaween experience the reason that people travel from all across the country to take part in this festival. The fun started for me on Wednesday, at the pre-pre party taking place at the Music Hall. It was incredible to see the long line of cars filing into the park on the Wednesday before the show. I gladly paid $20 to get into the Music Hall once I heard that all of the proceeds from this part of the event were going to the victims of Hurricane Michael.
Even thought this is not supposed to be about the music this time, I have to give a shout out to CBDB, who I saw perform on Wednesday night. They performed Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” as well as anyone since...well, Led Zeppelin. Then, later in their set, they did an incredible rendition of “The Immigrant Song.” I could tell this was going to be a memorable Hula.
One of my favorite things about Hulaween is that it is so much like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books that you might have read as a child. No two people will likely have exactly the same experience. Thursday night had me checking out what it was like at the Silent Disco. After that odd but thrilling experience, I got my first real taste of Spirit Lake. The art that surrounds that magical portion of the park just keeps getting more and more impressive and fun. Even though it was 3 in the morning, there were still few spots to be had at the Spirit Lake Casino. The “Casino” was decorated to look like it was a very old casino. The dealers wore what looked like what might have been worn in Vegas in the 50’s or 60’s.
One could easily spend hours admiring the art during the daytime, only to find that each exhibit takes on a completely different feel after sunset. I was also glad to see that the Yoga Tent, aka “The Oasis,” was wisely moved to the other side of the lake, away from the hustle and bustle of the Spirit Lake area. At an herbalism class at the Oasis, I met a woman who drove from Alaska to come to Hula. It is hard to describe what “it” is, but Suwannee Hulaween has plenty of it. People are literally willing to drive from anywhere to come and enjoy this festival.
If you want to see Jamaroqui play one of their few North American appearances, or you want to see Janelle Monae do a bit of James Brown in her set, you can do that. You want to see String Cheese and other jam bands jam, you can do that. You want to see some unique visual effects that go with the sounds on stage, you got it. You want to try more food choices than you could possibly try in one weekend, you could do that too. You want to see some amazing works of art; you could do that as well. About the only thing you couldn’t do was be bored at this year’s Hula. There was far too much going on for that.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at email@example.com.