By Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times
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.
The Olustee Battle Festival and Reenactment commemorates the Civil War battle’s 150th anniversary this year. The actual battle occurred Feb. 20, 1864. This year’s events are scheduled for Feb. 14, 15, the festival in Downtown Lake City; Feb. 16, the reenactment, Olustee Battlefield, U.S. 90 East. The event includes memorial services, arts & crafts, school tours, opening ceremonies, a battle between the Civil War ironclads the Monitor and the Merrimac, 5Ks, parade, a medical demonstration, Blue-Grey Square Dance, a mini-battle reenactment, a Civil War-era church service, and the battle with hundreds of uniformed reenactors expected.
More information: Visit olusteefestival.com
Aura Music & Arts Festival is scheduled for Feb. 14-16, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, Fla. This festival features numerous bands and performers, such as Lotus, Papadosio, Conspirator, Zoogma, the Werks 2, Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon Band, Kung Fu, Dopapod, the Heavy Pets, Superhuman Happiness, Start Making Sense: A Tribute to the Talking Heads, etc.
More information: Visit auramusicfestival.com
Along with its fall counterpart Magnolia Festival, the Suwannee Springfest’s tribute to American roots music is one of the longest-running music events at the Spirit of the Suwannee. This year’s Springfest is scheduled for March 20-23 and is scheduled to feature the Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Jason Isbell, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, Steep Canyon Rangers, etc.
More information: Visit www.suwanneespringfest.com
Wanee Music Festival is scheduled for April 10-12, Spirit of the Suwannee. The Allman Brothers lead this festival which celebrates its 10th anniversary this spring. This year’s line-up is expected to be announced later this week. Past performers have included Robert Plant, Leon Russell, Widespread Panic. Wanee is the most popular musical event at the park.
More information: Visit www.waneefestival.com
SUWANNEE RIVER JAM
This long-running country music festival is scheduled for April 30-May 3, and features Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Montgomery Gentry, Chris Cagle, Colt Ford, Charlie Daniels Band, the Mavericks, the Lacs.
More information: Visit www.suwanneeriverjam.com
More information on other Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park events, visit www.musicliveshere.com