Festivals I’m Thankful For: Suwannee Hulaween
written by Alyssa DiCaterino
Photos by Connor Hayes
Hulaween At a Glance
Kid tested, parent approved (may or may not be thanks to a literal mini-ball pit). Suwannee Hulaween was something the whole family could enjoy, and probably my new favorite way to celebrate the great holiday of Halloween. This three day fest (paired with a killer pre-party) was unlike any other festival I’ve ever attended. The art alone literally took my breath away with its trippy, fire-breathing, haunting, and entrancing details. Once you entered Suwannee, it was like a whole new, beautiful world. With such art installations, amazing performers, three whole nights of The String Cheese Incident, crazy costumes, and great environment, there was not one second of the Hulaween weekend that was dissapointing.
Music genre: Blue-grass, Jam, EDM, House, with a touch of indie and reggae
Camping: YES (car camping, primitive camping, RV, cabins)
Capacity: Medium (20-30,000)
Crowd type: Family, Chill, Costumed
Water stations: Yes (and sprinklers too)
For the first-timers
As a first time Hulaween enthusiast myself, I made the mistake of staying in a hotel. Camping certainly seemed like half of the fun. With primitive camping, very limited car camping, RV hookups, and cabins (nicely-kept permanent installations of Suwannee park) options available, Suwannee certainly covers all areas of the hospitality aspect. Actually getting to the festival, for out-of-state visitors, the closest international airport is unfortunately 79 miles away in Jacksonville (but Suwannee does offer a shuttle service with their partner Sharethebus from JAX to Suwannee for $35 each way). There are, however regional airports in Gainesville, Tallahassee, Valdosta 38-60 miles away. The hard part is, either finding a rental or suffering Uber prices to actually get from the airport to the fest because the shuttles no longer services these locations. For us drivers, Suwannee Hulaween is conveniently located near both I-75 and I-10; but, inconveniently the day parking is quite a trek to the festival grounds. Thanks to some “shuttles” (big trucks with trailers on the back) they helped us out on that one.
Thai, Indian Fusion, Grassroots BBQ, nuff said.
Hulaween has five stages: The Campground Stage, Spirit Lake Stage, The Patch, The Meadow, and The Amphitheater, and each one brought out a cool vibe to us Hula folk. The Amphitheater was probably my favorite because it was surrounded by hammocks that you could just chill in while vibing to the music. The Patch gave a more secluded feel as it was a little ways away from the other stages. The Campground and Spirit Lake stage were dope at night with all of the blacklight and neon detail. The Meadow was the typical festival feel completed with a ferris wheel and a giant orange “H-U-L-A” art display.
Per a random new Hula friend suggestion, I made it my mission to catch Claude VonStoke’s set, and boy am I glad I did. As an indie/alternative music lover, this was a new venture for me. With a deep house vibe and everyone just grooving and passing around the fake spider web across the crowd (and getting tangled in it), it was probably my favorite set from the entire weekend. The String Cheese Incident (what literally makes Suwannee Hulaween, Suwanne Hulaween) played several times throughout the weekend— kinda hard to miss them. The 80s set, I have to say, was the best. Oh Wonder (oh boy), I was so glad to be able to finally catch them live. Being more of an indie duo, they seemed a little out of place with the rest of the lineup; but, me being an indie lover, didn’t mind one bit.
Things to do
–dance, flow, meditation, yoga workshops
-look at all of the beautiful art…. seriously spend a day to look at it
-take a nap in the 50 million hammocks they had
(sorry guys no disc golf tournament this year)
VIP or nah
With five different “Ultimate Incident VIP” passes to choose from, how do you know which one to get? Or if you should even get them? I honestly feel like you would have just as much fun with a GA pass as you would with any of the VIP choices. BUT to be real, the VIP perks would be nice. I’m not quite the fan of port-o-potties, so actual bathrooms that come with being a very important person would be nice. VIP camping, discounted beverages, VIP viewing areas, swag bags, golf cart shuttles, and massages make up the basic VIP pack. The higher ones add in catered meals and glamping, then the next add in a hotel and shuttles to and from hotels, and finally, the highest one includes a cabin.
Suwannee Hulaween was definitely one of those festivals to stick with you. The people made what was already a perfect festival, even more flawless. Megaphone dudes, octopus finger lady, and pineapple guy (who I actually found at EDC Orlando the weekend after) are just a few of my favorites. I truly have never experienced a festival where I was just the most content person on the planet just listening to live music and the people around me while chilling in a hammock. Seeing families enjoying themselves, babies running through the sprinkler, and toddlers making a jungle gym out of everything (and how cool would it be to be able to say “Yeah I went to my first festival when I was two”). Other than getting terribly lost in the very dark and cold in an attempt to find my car, there was not a single moment where I was not smiling. I guarantee even when I took a quick hammock nap, I was still smiling in my sleep. Suwannee Hulaween was such a beautiful festival in so many ways that gave me a much happier soul thanks to art, music, nature, hammocks, people, pineapples, and stringy cheese.