Valdosta Daily Times

Features

January 19, 2014

Visiting North Florida’s home of civil war battles and music festivals

LAKE CITY, Fla. — Discussing their events, Harvey Campbell and Teena Peavey seem worlds apart until you realize they are closely linked.

As the executive director of the Columbia County, Fla., Tourist Development Council, Campbell focuses on the coming Olustee Battle Festival & Annual Reenactment, preparing for next month’s 150th anniversary of the closest Civil War battle to Valdosta.

As the marketing director for the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground, Peavey highlights the park’s coming music festivals ranging from next month’s Aura Music & Arts Festival to the Suwannee Springfest and Magnolia roots music festivals to the country music Suwannee River Jam to the Allman Brothers-sponsored Wanee Festival to the weekly weekend shows.

Yet, the more they discuss their events, the more the similarities become apparent. People opting between camping for their respective events, or taking advantage of shuttle services while staying at nearby hotels or motels. The participation in something American whether it’s country music or watching a battle reenactment, whether it’s watching the people wearing concert garb or the blue and the grey, or listening to a Lincoln or Lee impersonator, or seeing the real thing with the Allmans or country’s Brantley Gilbert.

Yet, the most common theme is location.

All of these events are a relatively short distance from Valdosta and South Georgia, as simple as driving across state line about half an hour or so down into Florida.

And many of the folks traveling to our Florida neighbors are coming from even greater distances.

The Olustee Battle Festival annually draws an average of 60,000 people to North Florida. Based on increased numbers experienced by the 150th anniversary at other Civil War battlefields, Campbell estimates Olustee’s sesquicentennial will draw an increase of approximately 50 percent more than past reenactments. This year, organizers expect nearly 100,000 visitors for the three-day festival and battle reenactments.

People also travel great distances to attend the Spirit of the Suwannee’s music festivals. The Wanee Festival, which is scheduled to announce its line-up this week, has become the music park’s largest draw. Peavey says the Wanee Festival regularly draws attendance from all 50 states and seven countries. This April marks the 10th Wanee Music Festival.

With the Olustee Festival and the Aura Festival coming next month, The Times takes a quick look today at our neighbors to the south.

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