Tenting in the middle of the woods with no electricity may not sound like your idea of fun, but this girl enjoys a couple days of rustic camping once in a while.
What better time to disconnect and leave the world behind, than a fall music festival in rural northern Florida where you listen to music for hours upon hours and take in some of the best people-watching of all time?
The Bear Creek Music & Art Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park has become an annual tradition that I’ve adopted in the last couple of years. N and I pack up his truck with all the camping gear, fire-making supplies, and comforting snacky foods we can cram into his flatbed and hike it up three hours north to Live Oak, Florida.
It’s rural, but the park is like an oasis for tired travelers and festival goers alike, with campsites along the tea-colored Suwannee River, a country store, cafe and blessedly warm public bathhouses (yes, Florida can get cold!).
Once you set up camp in some little wooded nook, you find your way to the festival grounds and peruse food, booths packed with art and tie-died goods, and visit three different stages where performers groove and jam out for hours on end.
We typically have a small village of friends we meet up with, so we’re always in good company.
Like nomads, we casually stroll from one stage to the next, swaying and bobbing our heads to the tunes of whichever bands we come across. With 15-20 bands taking the stage each day, it’s easy to spend the entire weekend dancing.
Dreadlocks and hoola hoops seem more popular than flower braids and glow-sticks, but this music festival really has people of all kinds. It’s a beautiful melting pot – of zesty jambalaya – of bold personalities, herbal aromas and colorful outfits.
Though there is no real dress code at this music festival, I found myself wrapped up in a cozy pashmina or over sized scarf with this long sweater coat almost all weekend. It wasn’t so much about being fashionable as it was about staying warm!
When the weather cooperates, you find yourself splayed out on the dry grass in an open field where one of the stages are located, enjoying a bit of a break and warming up in the sunshine.
Some take a snooze, but I like to watch the characters that run, dance and roam past you.
The food is not what one may expect, as greasy, previously frozen dishes are replaced with fresh produce, locally sourced ingredients, and creative flavor combinations that leave you wondering whether the food itself is a part of the “art” portion of the festival.
My personal favorite stage is the amphitheater, which is a half shell stage at the base of a tiered dirt basin, with shady trees covering almost the entire area, so that only beams of sunlight shine through onto concert goers.
Slouchy hammocks are strung between trees on each tiered level, giving those lucky enough to snatch one up, a blessed break so they are left quite literally swaying to the music.
The music, food and people watching is all a treat for the senses, but one of my favorite moments is when our little group trudges back into the woods late at night (or early in the morning) to our campsite to pull up a circle of chairs around a warm, crackling fire.
Especially this year, when the weather was dry, but quite chilly, the fire was where we all just allowed ourselves to completely unwind, melting into our chairs, gazing deep into the glowing coals of the roasting flames.
Most nights, after experimenting with a campfire creation of some kind (Smoreos – I’m just saying), we found ourselves just dozing off as the fire slowly died down. One of the most relaxing ways to fall asleep in my opinion.
By the end of the weekend we all smelled like a campfire, were in need of a good shower, but were overall left feeling mellow and satisfied with another successful year at Bear Creek.
Hugs and promises for next year (when I’m determined to grab up one of the few cabins at the park) end the annual tradition, and we all pile back into our packed vehicles, turn up our favorite jam band on the ol’ radio, and drive off back to our regular lives.
If you’re interested in checking out Spirit of the Suwanne Music Park for an upcoming music festival, check out their upcoming events and book early, as they have a killer following.