The small Panhandle town of Live Oak is bracing for an influx of tens of thousands of people. Live Oak, population 6,900, is the host of the annual Suwannee Hulaween music festival. The weekend-long event is known for its psychedelic electronic music and art installations. 20,000 attendees flock to the woods outside of town, where the festival’s synthesizers echo across the Suwannee River.
Each year attendees from across the country descend on this small North Florida town on the edge of the Suwannee River for a weekend of camping and hallucinogenic revelry.
This year's lineup includes String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Run the Jewels, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Besides the live acts, festivalgoers can take in the Burning Man-inspired art installations, which include light shows, paintings, and metal and wooden sculptures, meant to transform the forest into "a vivid dream-like space that fully engages the sense", according to the event website.
Alvin Jackson heads the Suwannee County economic development office. He says there’s a bit of a culture clash, but he calls the financial impact of the festival transformational.
“Well I think you always have mixed feelings. But I think overall it’s a very good feeling. We know it brings tourists and basically the tourists are spending dollars,” Jackson said.
Jackson says local grocery stores, hotels and gas stations see the greatest impacts.
“I just came through Walmart and Walmart is packed. I mean folks are purchasing blankets, tents, sleeping bags, food, beer and wine, lights. Just all different types…kinds of things.”
According to Jackson, Hulaween brings in an estimated $700,000 dollars a day. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday.