GOOD GUESS, YANKEE
Except for the handful of weekends it hosts large-scale music festivals, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is primarily a campground nestled along the river immortalized by Tin Pan Alley songwriter Stephen Foster (who never actually saw its shores but rather plucked its name from a map for its poetic cadence). Saturday saw the dawn of another beautiful day on this gorgeous expanse of river-fed pine and Cypress forest, so after heating up some coffee on a camp stove, grabbing eggs and bacon at the on-site restaurant (God bless my low carb Lent), and saying farewell to the friend who had joined me for Friday’s shows, I hopped on my bike and rode down to the river which I’d yet to spy during my three previous Wanees in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
Suwannee Music Park is a bucolic place to ride, and I have friends who return here annually for the cleverly named I-Did-A-Ride trail race. So with map in hand, I tried to make sense out of the maze of tent-jammed roads that had confounded me the previous afternoon as I wound my way to the banks of the Suwannee. When I arrived after a twenty minute ride, this dark, snaking stream proved as picturesque as Foster imagined (good guess,Yankee!), and the thousands of tents, camping vans, shipping crates and other improvised sleeping arranges along its shores were a feast for the eyes, decorated with handmade signs, Wannee banners, and tie-dye sheets that added a festive communal sense to the event. It seemed a lot of work for two or three nights where you’d largely be away from the tent hearing music, and made me suspect some folks come more for the giant campout and only hit the festival ground for a favorite band or two.
Not me! I could have explored these trails checking out quirky campsites for hours, but The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the first band I wanted to see, started at 1:00 and there wouldn’t be a break in the action until the Allmans left the stage at midnight, so I rushed back to the tent and loaded up to hang out all day under the hot southern sun listening to a joyful noise.
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