Special thanks to my dear friend Wil Arnold for writing this post for us and contributing the pictures. We met at Wanee 2011 and my life is better for having met him. Much Love!
With our Ultimate Packing Guide checked and double checked, the sun ablaze, and the windows down, we put the car in drive and hit the road. There is a unique feeling of love and positivity in our car as we head to the Wanee Festival at the beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fl. The all-around beauty this park contains and the access to the historic Suwannee River make this festival one of my favorites. This festival lets everyone, of any age, feel welcome. When looking around there are generations of music lovers, young and old, families with children, grandparents, and college buddies all coming together to enjoy these amazing April days. LiveNation and the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park do a great job of making all who come to see the Allman Brothers headline this amazing festival feel welcome when entering the park. The mixed bag of musical treats that await each stage provides a soundtrack for creating memories that will last for years to come.
Pulling off the exit to Live Oak brings a smile to our faces and we know we have finally arrived. This year, as usual at this venue, checking in and getting through the gates was quick and easy. There were no crazy long lines, and we did not have to spend the whole afternoon anticipating the moment when the wristbands finally get tethered on. In a snap we were checked in and on the way to find our camping spot and start our adventure. We began by driving down newly opened Renaissance Way, which is a heavily camped area with a car trail that takes you behind The Mushroom stage. We weave through the “4 Corners” crossroad, and arrive at The Bat House, our favorite spot. This spot is full of shaded areas, always houses fun camping neighbors, and there is an amazing drum circle that appears every night. The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is unique in the way that you are able to pick your own place to camp, unlike some festivals where you camp based on what time you arrive. This allows you to be able to pick the same area every time you visit. Camping in the same area at festivals can help you use sort of a “muscle memory” to find your way back to camp in any condition you find yourself in. At the end of a fun day of dancing and playing, nothing is better than knowing how to get back to a cozy air mattress, or warm campfire.
We found our favorite Suwanee campsite and began setting up. After several years of being the best tent in the world, the time to replace our trusty old tent finally came. We spent a lot of time looking for the perfect tent, as we knew we would want it to last for years. We picked out a brand new Coleman Instant-Tent. I highly recommend this tent because we discovered at Wanee that it went up and broke down with so much ease, taking only about 2 minutes. Setting up at a festival should be quick and easy. We also decided to invest in some small tent locks, though Wanee does not have a huge issue with theft. These are a nice deterrent if you want a little piece of mind. You can park beside your car, so locking valuables inside is also a good idea.
After set-up was over we wandered around to find some fun. Going to any festival can get pricey fast, but at Wanee there is a cozy general store located just outside the East Gate. This store has a variety of items, not too highly priced, where you can pick up anything you may have forgotten. An alternative we found to buying $6-$11 drinks from the beer vendors was to take a quick walk there. The general store is still in earshot of the music so we could still dance and sing along. We bought $5 four-packs there and relaxed in handmade wooden chairs in the yellow light of the fire in front of the store. Several other people had the same idea so we were never short a new friend to talk to or share a few beers with. Although it wasn’t in the front row at a stage, it was a magical place to hear folks share their festival stories while still hearing the bands rocking out. To me, there are so many great places to be at a festival. While the music is what brings us all together, campfire conversations can make your whole weekend. You never know, you may meet you next festy-besty there! The Wanee Festival has so many different types of unique great people. Perhaps this is because of the eclectic variety of music. From the people we camped by, to the people we danced with, the common thread was that all had smiles on their faces. Even the venders we spent times conversing with seemed like old friends, though we had never met. The family vibe is very strong at Spirit of Suwanee.
One couldn’t ask for much better weather at a festival than the weather in mid-April. Every year the warm days and cool nights in the first month of spring are perfect for camping in Live Oak. Days in the 80’s made for tank tops and shorts while nights with lows in the high 50’s made for a light sweater and cuddling at night. While I love my summer festivals too, cool nights make for warm fires and better sleep. It is super important to pack the right clothes when going to a festival with this type of weather fluctuation. Check the weather before leaving to be prepared for hot days, cool nights, and because it is Florida, some small showers can almost always be expected. Don’t be deceived by what you make think Florida weather is like, it can be cold enough some nights to enjoy the comfort of wool socks and heavy jackets. Being prepared can only increase the fun all weekend!
A great line-up is never a surprise at Wanee. Every stage, day and night, is always hosting an unbelievable act. The days are always hopping with music starting at 11 or 12 and jamming straight through to 2 or 3 in the morning. Even with a little scheduling mix up early in the festival, the amazing crew was able to pull things together, as always. While some overlaps are inevitable, the stages at Wanee are close enough together that catching a little of each band is not a problem. The stage schedules are posted beside the stage, but you can also stop by the merch table to see an updated schedule in case any shows get moved around. Some bands may switch times or be going on an hour earlier or later than scheduled. The music gods certainly smiled down on the 10th anniversary of Wanee! The perfect weather, mixed with one of the best festival lineups anywhere, made this the perfect festival. The music was incredible, and the people were radiating smiles and positive vibes all weekend. Thank you Wanee for another incredible year!
Festival Tips from Wanee 2014:
1. Bring your own dry wood or pick up a bundle once in the park for warm campfires.
2. Print out a list of what is in each crate you pack so you can more easily find things.
3. Easy set up tents are the way to go. (Coleman Instant-Tent)
4. When at the Suwannee Music Park, take a break and swing through the general store for some cheaper beer. Hanging by the fire pit out front to drink it is a good way to meet some great festival folks.
5. Be sure to check with the park to find out if book bags are allowed in. They allowed them again for Wanee 2014, presented by LiveNation, but it all depends on the presenter.
6. Go solar! Rather than running the car or draining the battery dead, invest in a SolarGoPack, re-chargeable battery pack, or a solar panel to keep your devises charged all weekend with no worries.