Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Eric Anthony Rodriguez

This past weekend at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park was a sight to behold. There was music and dancing, lights and colors, and the rain that had been predicted for the weekend passed by quickly and helped keep the air fresh. Other than the Wednesday night pre-party, where all of the music was taking place in the Music Hall, festivalgoers at this year’s Hulaween had to make difficult choices every night. On Thursday, I had to decide between Eoto in the amphitheater stage, Nick Fresh on the Spirit Lake stage, or Danka on the Campground stage. I decided to start with Danka from Jacksonville Beach on the Campground stage. Those who made this choice were rewarded by some great reggae music and a look at the artwork that was adjacent to this stage and spanned the area on one shore of Spirit Lake all the way to the Spirit Lake stage.

Part of the reason festivalgoers love Suwannee Hulaween is the artwork that continues to evolve and impress attendees year after year. I saw a few installations that looked similar to years past, and several more that were completely new and different from works shown here before. One thing I missed out on was spending more time in the casino area and seeing the live performances taking place in one corner of Spirit Lake called Land of the Lost. I did catch a light show over the lake Friday night that had a huge crowd mesmerized from start to finish.

Of course the music is what brings most of the crowd into the northern end of Suwannee County for the weekend, and the music on Friday night was outstanding. It was the first day that included acts on the larger Meadow stage, and this is where I got to see Lettuce perform. Their set included some jazz numbers, some reggae and a cover of one of my favorite 80’s songs: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Later in the evening, I saw Clozee and Jai Wolf both play sets in the amphitheater. Then, it was back to the Meadow stage to hear Bassnectar shake the ground while watching lights on stage and the crowd bouncing in time with the music. I also caught the last part of Marc Rebillet on the Spirit Lake stage. I enjoyed all of it and didn’t dwell on the fact that I only saw a fraction of all of the music available on the five stages Friday night.

Saturday started with the reggae music of Steel Pulse on the Meadow stage. The lead singer said they have been playing in the United States for 40 years now. I was glad to be there for their first stop in Suwannee County. Later, I saw CharlesTheFirst for the first time in my life. His down-tempo EDM was an incredible follow up to the reggae from earlier in the day. My favorite part of Saturday was by far the 90’s songs the String Cheese Incident played for a packed crowd on the Meadow stage. Hearing songs originally played by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, Nirvana, Beck, Alanis Morissette, Radiohead, Pear Jam, TLC and Doctor Dre was fun for all of us lucky enough to be there Saturday night. In case the music and lights were not enough, there were fireworks to enjoy as Cheese was leaving the stage Saturday night.

I was sad when Sunday evening rolled around. Not because most people were leaving the park, but because the party was still going after I left. Some people probably planned ahead and asked for Monday off, and some others will be calling in sick. Good call.

Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at miamistyle8@gmail.com.

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