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A Wanee fan having a good time

I Wanna go to Wanee!

Article and photos by Kathleen Walls

 

 

 

The crowd at one of the stages
enjoying the music

All street parties need three things music, food and fun. I recently attended a hum-dinger of a party a while back that had all that in spades. Wanee, held annually at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak Florida, is a cross between Woodstock forty-something-years-removed and a tailgate party with a touch of camping out at the river thrown in for fun. Spirit of the Suwannee couldn't have a better location. It is perched right on the banks of the beautiful Suwannee River at one of the river's most picturesque spots.

One of the colorful campsites

Everybody lets their hair down and just has a good time. It's like Back to the Future Florida style. If home is where the heart is, the partygoers' hearts are in their rv, or travel trailer, pop-up or tent. Spirit of the Suwannee is a campground first and foremost. It's also like its own small city so once there you do not need to leave to get any basic needs. Of course, during festival times, there are food and drink venders set up. Most of the partygoers are doing their own cooking. Campfires and BBQ grills are smoking.

Music is found all over the park. there are the headliner bands starting with the Allman Brothers Band and groups like Widespread Panic, Government Mule, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Hot Tuna Electric, A Family Affair with Ivan Neville, Doctor John and the list goes on... and on...and on. Then there are the amateurs and small time bands. Some fans arrive early and set up their campsites defined by blankets hung from lines to indicate they will have all night jam sessions going.

One of the many bands playing at Wanee 2010

Teena Peavy, the park's marketing director, told me, "Some people never go to the stages to hear the bands. Instead they play and sing right at their own sites. One group boasted that there was non-stop music. They had someone playing round the clock for the entire festival. Anyone who wants can drop in and sit in. People bring their own instrument and just jam."

Teena also was happy to note, "This group is the least likely to get into fights and the cleanest. They pick up their own trash and leave the park neat and clean." As I meandered around the park, I could see what she meant. Everybody was mellow. I saw more peace signs than during the Vietnam era. One indication of how much people want to come to this festival is the distance they come. most festivals pole drive to so attendance is mostly local. Teeena said at Wanee, people fly in then rent a car at the airport, drive to the nearest camping supply store, buy tents and then come set up. When they leave, they just leave the tents behind. She said "One year, we didn't find this one tent until weeks after. It was set up way back in the woods. We get so many tents left behind we're thinking of doing our own tent rental for the event."

This cart has a lifesize doll on front labeled "Party Slut"

This year's attendance was around 18,000. Supposedly the park capacity is 20,000 but to me the park seemed packed. Campers were set up everywhere. With such a crowd you better believe getting around in a traditional car would be chaotic. Instead the vehicle of choice was golf carts. And at Wanee golf carts become an art form. Most were decorated in some way. Some of the carts rivaled New Orleans Mardi Gras floats.

The event was begun six years ago by the Allman Brothers Band and shows no sign of ending. I tried to find out if the word "Wanee" means anything but the answer that sums it up best was posted at one fan's web site. "A mysterious mélange of time-honored music harmonized with chaotic chemistry, humble patience, and blind faith to create unique vibes to share in the rousing company of kindred spirits!"

 

For more information:

http://www.musicliveshere.com/content/index.php

http://www.waneefestival.com/

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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