About This Festival
A New Kind of Halloween
Suwannee Hulaween only hit the fest circuit a few years ago, but its renown has spread fast and far. One reason: the String Cheese Incident hosts the bash, and it secures a big-name line up of fellow jam bands and EDM artists to play, with funk, hip hop and reggae performers thrown in to keep things lively. Another reason Hula wins raves: it’s a Halloween party, where bands and fest-goers alike show their spooky spirit with all-out costumes and decorations. Then there’s Hulaween’s perfect setting: it’s outdoors under giant, moss-draped trees, with the occasional bat swooping by. It feels a little bit haunted and Southern Gothic, and a whole lot gorgeous and atmospheric.
Some things you can be sure of while attending: guys dressed as Muppets, slinky cat girls, and at least one artist doing a cover of “Ghost Busters” or “Thriller.” Also count on wild art installations, energetic yoga classes and DJs who throw down in the campsites until the wee hours.
Despite the skyrocketing number of attendees, Suwannee Hulaween provides plenty of elbow room. The crowd – a mix of young dance freaks, older jam fans and those in between – roams between the four stages: the Main Stage (where the String Cheese Incident plays its two sets each evening, followed by headliners such as Chance the Rapper and Pretty Lights), the Amphitheater (another big venue hosting ass-kickers like Primus and Odesza), Spirit Lake (home to the art installations and silent disco, and where the late night party swings until 5 am or so) and the nearby Campground Stage (a terrific smaller spot presenting Florida-based bands). The lineup includes around 50 artists overall.
Hulaween staggers the main acts and the flow moves well, so it’s easy to get between stages and see what you want. Bars and food vendors also are near the stages to offer quick energy with, say, a Peace Love Taco and a hoppy pale ale.
The music starts around noon each day. Those who want to save their ears for later have a slew of alternative activities to choose from in the afternoons. Many fest-goers unfurl a mat for Lucid Dream Yoga, or learn to balance on a slackline. Others engage in sacred music meditations, or take guided nature walks to munch on medicinal plants en route.
An “everyone’s welcome” vibe prevails. Friends gather from around the country (and especially from around the South), while many people know each other from other fests. These are folks who will lend you a can of beans or feathery ostrich costume, no questions asked. It’s also a group that takes Hulaween’s green policy to heart, recycling with hippie verve.
Walk toward Spirit Lake and it’s like entering the enchanted woods. Hulking murals rise from the ground. Wood carvings hang from the trees. Purple, green, blue and red lights glow between twisted branches. Hulaween hires the art director of Electric Forest to design its mind-bending scene of multimedia sculptures, light projections and fiery performance art, and it pays off big in trippiness.
The action gets especially intense in the wee hours. Some revelers string up hammocks between trees and sway all night under the crazy lights and artworks. Some whoop and climb the interactive installations. Meanwhile, DJs turn up for dance-offs in the forest.
History and Past Headliners
Hulaween started in 2013. The String Cheese Incident organized the event, and a few thousand fans attended. Word got out about how cool it was, and some 8,000 people flocked in the next year. By 2015, Hulaween ballooned to 21,000 fest-goers.
The String Cheese Incident always headlines, of course, and they bring a crew of A-listers to join them.
- 2015: Chance the Rapper, Primus, Pretty Lights, STS9, GRiZ, Odesza and Slightly Stoopid were among the line up.
- 2014: Big Gigantic, Thievery Corporation, Beats Antique, The New Deal and Shpongle did the honors.
- 2013: STS9, Big Gigantic, Conspirator, Manic Focus, Emancipator, Leftover Salmon and Eliot Lipp topped the bill.