Words & Photos by Jeremy Nicholson
The 19th Annual Suwannee Springfest began with dark clouds and a discouraging forecast on Thursday. During a light drizzle, I searched for a dry spot to set up camp beneath the towering oak and pine trees. Suwannee Springfest has a smaller attendance compared to some of the park’s other, but that would prove to be perfect for finding a quaint spot where I could relax in my hammock before the pickin’ began.
The bulk of festivalgoers showed up early on Thursday in anticipation for Del & Dawg, while Friday and Saturday gradually filled the Suwannee with about 5,000 attendees. Suwannee Springfest promotes a family environment for everyone to enjoy, and many families (some quite large!) return year after year to enjoy the scenery and music alike. Kids ran around the park all weekend as a sign of the multiple generations present at event. The couple that camped next to me endured an 18-hour pilgrimage from Michigan just to get to the Suwannee.
Neighboring camps boasted the harmonizing sounds of strings, filling the air with sweet bluegrass music from every direction. The talented campers are just as much of an attraction at Springfest as the premiere bluegrass and country music the festival books on its stages.
This year, headliners consisted of Del McCoury & David Grisman, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams, with The Wood Brothers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams & the Travlin’ McCourys, and Shovels and Rope providing strong support.
A couple of different stages were set up to complement the festival, such as Uncle Charles Porch Stage, with a wicked “Dia De Las Muertas” Sugar Skull looking out at the crowd, and the Meadow Stage. The beautiful Amphitheater stage surrounded by tall oaks and swinging hammocks would host the headliners.
One unique aspect of Suwannee Springfest was the Music Farmers Workshops held each morning for amateur artists trying to perfect their craft, taught by musicians playing the festival. For instance, there was a “Fiddle Techniques” with Lyndsey Pruett and a “Songs Workshop” with Verlon Thompson and Jim Lauderdale. Being able to interact with the performers and learn their technique is something very special. Springfest prides themselves on these types of interactions.
The musicians did a ton of sitting in with one another with several collaborations throughout the weekend. The beautiful people, music and weather of Suwannee Springfest produced a fantastic festival. While the weather was threatening at first, Friday and Saturday turned out to be sunny with blue skies and comfortable temperatures, providing the perfect environment for a great American art-form to entertain patrons of all ages.