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SUWANEE HULAWEEN PREVIEW: Spirit Lake Designer Andrew Carroll Talks Past Years & 2018 Plans

Suwannee Hulaween has been’s favorite music festival since it’s inception in 2013, and it’s one that just keeps getting better. The Suwannee Music Park is the best place for a camping music festival – as far as we know – and one of the reasons for that is Spirit Lake.

For those who may not know, Spirit Lake is to Hulaween what Sherwood forest is to Electric Forest: it’s the trippy, artsy, installation-laden, lit-up multi-sensory experience where people get lost in other-worldly sculptures, light shows and more. It’s an incredible place to be, and you probably wouldn’t ever find anyone who has been there to tell you otherwise…

The mastermind behind Spirit Lake is Andrew Carroll, an expert in lighting and large-scale art installations who has worked with String Cheese Incident, Electric Forest, and Suwannee Hulaween for a long time. We caught up with Andrew to discuss the upcoming year and what it has in store for Spirit Lake, and we peppered the interview with some of our favorite pictures from years past. Enjoy!

___________________ Entering the fifth year, how do you begin the process of reinventing the Spirit Lake experience each time around?

Andrew Carroll: Its our sixth year actually! Spirit Lake has evolved into an almost year-round project. My process around reinventing is never ending. I’m constantly working on designing/planning/scheming fresh ideas for the current year while also creating goals and plans for next year and the year after that. Some of my plans for this current year are coming to fruition based on ideas from 2-3 years ago! I’ve put ALOT more into the experience on the water this year. We are taking this to huge new levels, and this is only the beginning.

Where do you draw inspiration? Are there any specific visual artists or events that keep you inspired?

Absolutely! there are so many these days. So much creativity everywhere. I’m constantly surfing the web for new ideas and amazing artists from around the world. Its not always a specific piece of art, but usually specific elements of that piece that give me ideas for ways we could apply parts of that to our unique situation. Although not necessarily a specific artist or event, currently i’m heavily inspired by my favorite architecture on the planet, the ancient mosques of Iran. Google that….you won’t be disappointed! So mindblowingly fabulous!

How does the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park inspire you?

The Spirit of the Suwannee Music park is such a special place. I love the landscape, the trees, the Spanish moss, the lake. This beautiful natural setting is perfect to accent with art and lighting and performance. Plus since its been in existence for so long it means so much to everyone who comes. For many people who attend Hulaween it might be their 30th time to the park. That in itself gives a deeper level of special meaning for people regardless of the event.

What have been some of your favorite installations over the years?

I love them all! For real! No doubt I love the large-scale mindblowing art of longtime career artists such as Charlie Smith’s metal/fire art…. or Thomas Dambo’s wooden monsters, but its equally as satisfying to support a person coming to the table with a very small and simple installation that they were inspired to propose to build based on something they saw at Hula the year before. Supporting the community who have taken the leap of faith to unleash their creativity, with Hula as the setting, and giving them a place to do it, is amazing and so rewarding.

Do you get to wander around the Spirit Lake during the festival to see the art in full effect? Any remarkable experiences with that?

Do i get to?! That’s all i do! This is my personal reward for another years worth of hard work reawakening the beast that is ‘Spirit Lake’. I’m constantly wandering around checking on things, making sure everything is flowing smoothly, and safely. I engage with people… i listen to peoples experiences, and what they love or don’t love, and mostly i’m taking notes for the following year…..things we can do better, ways to take the experience to new levels of which no one has seen before, ways to streamline my team’s process in regards to planning, designing, installing, etc. Its an ever-evolving process and it literally doesn’t end, but i love it so much!

Are there any bands you’re excited to see this year?

Absolutely! Really excited to finally see Jamiroquai as I never have before, and I’m very intrigued by the artistry of Janelle Monae. But I’d say I’m probably MOST excited for Vulfpeck. My wife and kids and I love them and listen to them constantly! I think Jack Stratton is a genius and Joe Dart is one of the baddest bass players on the planet!


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