Surviving Bear Creek

Funky times at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park! The Bear Creek festival has become one of the all-time best funk festival’s in the country, and this year’s event definitely lived up to that reputation. Bear Creek hosts a collection of talented musicians (such as this year featuring Zack Deputy, Trey Anastasio, and Dumpstaphunk to name a few), and brings a variety of spirited attendees to its beautiful scenery. Along with all the amazing music and people come a few challenges to be aware of, so here are some helpful hints to make your life a little easier while you get your groove on.

When giving advice on a festival I usually like to start from the beginning and tell the readers what to expect in the way of lines at the gate, security, etc.  But in an effort to avoid being repetitive, you can find that information on the posts “Surviving 311 Pow Wow” or “Surviving Blackwater”.  I feel that this can be put on the back burner in order to tell you the most important thing to know before attending Bear Creek: PACK WARM CLOTHES.  By warm clothes I do not mean a few hoodies and a pair of socks, I mean more than one long sleeve shirt, several pairs of thick socks, a hoodie, a winter coat, something to cover your head, a pair of long johns or leggings, and a pair of gloves at least.  This may seem like overkill, but trust me, it’s not.  While the weather during the day is incredibly beautiful, once the suns goes down things can strart to get a little rough.  While this is a nice change of pace for those of you who may remember the unrelenting heat of the summer festivals at this venue, the cold can be a challenge.  Some people stayed warm by garnishing silly but awesome costumes that covered their entire bodies like Winnie the Pooh,  a giant beetle, or even a creepy Easter Bunny.  These costumes were funny as hell,  but also thick and warm.

While it is almost impossible not to dance to the super funky music, dancing is almost vital to keep your blood pumping to keep you warm.  Thursday night, as the festival really kicked into gear, the temperatures dropped into the low 30’s, and somehow it managed to get even colder by Friday night.  The best course of action, besides getting down and wearing lots of layers, is to build a campfire.  Firewood is for sale just outside the venue gates as you walk to your campsite, but if you have the trunk space I would highly recommend bringing your own.  Firewood ran about $5 a pop for a small bundle.  If you want to save the trouble of packing it yourself you can certainly go that route, but if you have a better supply from home it could save you a lot of money to bring it yourself.  Plus there is the added benefit of having a supply of wood right next to your fire spot to save having to tote it around.  I can say with all seriousness that if it were not for the invention of fire, the weather would have been unBearable.  But lucky for all of us, this venue is perfectly happy allowing old-school campfires to be placed wherever you see fit.  I would like to add that if you do build a fire, please use caution and know a little about fire safety to keep this beautiful campground and all it’s people safe.

Speaking of being safe, it’s important for those who have never visited The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park to know that this is, in fact, a state park. This means that while for the most part “festy law” is still in effect in some ways, you have to be a little more careful than at other festivals.  I have observed over the summer that at every festival at this park the police have had a somewhat stronger than normal presence.  They walk around inside the venue, drive around the campsites, and sometimes will even wait until after the first few days when campers get settled in and comfortable before making their presence known.  Don’t worry, all this means is that it is a good idea to listen to your good old fashioned common sense and try not to do anything that will make you a target.  For example, do not leave any drug paraphernalia sitting out in the open, or carry anything on your person throughout the campsite and venue. If a stranger comes up to you and asks to borrow your pipe, this may be a trap to get you to expose your misdeeds.  Another good practice I saw was a campsite tucked away which was surrounded by tarps and tapestries.  This gave them sort of ‘walls”, and thereby granted them immediate notice if anyone, like an authority figure, were to wander into their site to cause trouble.

When looking for a good spot to camp, take your time.  There are so many good spots to choose from at this festival and it all depends on what you are looking for.  Whether you want a quiet campground, a rowdy party spot, a scenic river view, or a dancing monkey you are sure to find it if you just get there with enough daylight to have a look around.  My campfire buddies and I joked that if you can’t find what makes you happy at Bear Creek, you’re just not trying hard enough!

Perhaps my favorite thing about Bear Creek, besides the killer and always entertaining lineup,  is that I always seem to meet the most interesting and beautiful people at this festival.  It may be the time of year.  The campfires and body warmth seem to bring folks together in a way that summer festivals cannot.  Or perhaps it is the type of music, and the happy vibes it brings.  All I know to be true is that something about Bear Creek just continues to have a profound effect on me, and always seems to resonate with me the rest of the year, until I am lucky enough to go back to those beautiful Live Oaks and all the amazing people who make Bear Creek their yearly tradition.  It will certainly be mine.