We're only three days away from Hulaween - String Cheese Incident's Halloween-themed music festival! Invading the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida on Oct. 31 for three nights of spooktacular jammage, String Cheese Incident will be joined by headliners STS9 and Big Gigantic with supporting performances from acts including Emancipator, Conspirator, Steve Kimock & Friends and Brock Butler. Tickets can be purchased here.
Festival founder Paul Levine is the lifeline of the Spirit of the Suwannee, organizing festivals such as Bear Creek, Purple Hatters Ball and more. We had a chance to chat with Levine about the upcoming Hulaween festival, how he brought String Cheese Incident to Live Oak and his hopes for the festival's future.
Who chose to host Hulaween at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park? Tell me all about the partnership.
We've hosted many acts that include member of the String Cheese Incident at the Spirit of the Suwannee - the Emmitt-Nershi Band has been here, Michael Kang has been here with a number of acts, EOTO has been there. Over the years I've talked to the members of the band, I used to work with them when I lived in Colorado a long time ago, and I've been bugging their management for years to have the band come back to the Spirit of the Suwannee and do their own weekend.
It never was the right time for whatever reason, but over the course of the years I've talked to a lot of members of the bands and the momentum was in the band to do it. They started putting pressure on their management to get something done at the Spirit of the Suwannee. Finally, after about five years of phone calls and badgering their management, we were able to persuade them to make the time to come down here this year this fall and it was actually them that suggested Halloween weekend. We were talking about a different weekend and they said ‘this is available, why don't we do this?’
I couldn't have hoped for a greater opportunity for the park and for the fans of String Cheese because I'm certain this is going to be an incredible Halloween.
What’s your expected turnout for the festival?
It's really very unpredictable because a lot of people wait to see what the weather's going to be like in North Florida before they buy tickets. But we're going to have a great crowd, I don't want to jinx anything by making predictions but I do know that it's going to be a wonderful crowd and much bigger than a normal first-year event at the park.
Is there potential for Hulaween to become an annual event at the Spirit of the Suwannee?
We've certainly had these discussions. Halloween falls on Thursday this year and it falls on Friday next year and it falls on Saturday the year after that. So at the very least we have on the table a three-year engagement. Once Halloween starts falling on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the question is when do you have it? Do you have it before Halloween? Do you have it after Halloween? Well we're not sure.
Right now we're focusing on three years and there's no guarantee that's going to happen, but that's what we're talking about. We're going to see what happens this fall and if it goes as well as we all hope it will then I'm sure we can look forward to another couple years of it.
Hulaween isn't the only new festival to make its home in the Spirit of the Suwannee. The park has experienced massive growth over the last few years, consistently adding new events and increading overall attendance. What do you attribute this expansion to?
I think in the last ten to 15 years the music festival industry has exploded. It used to be that only hippies would go to music festivals but now a lot more people have discovered what the hippies have known all along - that you can't beat a good music festival. It's for everybody, not just for any one group of people and so there's millions of more potential music fans who are going to music festivals that never would've considered it 20 years ago.
As that happens and more people get into the scene, more and more people are finding out about this place the Spirit of the Suwanee. It's still not as well known as you might think, but people are starting to catch on and around the country people are starting to find out about it. Like I said, I consider it the Red Rocks of the south except better because it has on-site camping and showers. Because of that, as the legend of the place grows and more and more events happen here, more and more people find out about it. Then they come here for the first time and then they tell people about it, because once somebody comes to the Spirit of the Suwannee they become a promoter for the Spirit of the Suwannee because it's hard to leave here and not know what an incredible venue it is.