In these uncertain times for the music industry, it’s nice to hear that one venue is managing to not only stay open safely, but using this time to prepare to come back bigger and better than ever. The President and CEO of Live Oak, FL’s The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park, host to events like Hulaween, Suwannee Spring Reunion, Suwannee Roots Revival and so many more, has released an open letter to the music world about their efforts to make the park safe and ready to go. Read the full letter below:
In this time of massive uncertainty in the music industry I wanted to share a hopeful story of a venue staff adapting to this difficult situation. My name is James Cornett, President & CEO of the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park, a year-round campground that hosts a variety of music festivals, large and small. My parents founded this Park and making it the best place to hear live music it can possibly be has been a true family endeavor ever since.
In mid-March I was faced with the most difficult decision of my professional life. With just a few short days before load-in for our Suwannee Spring Reunion event and state guidelines still allowing shows we decided to put the health and safety of our patrons above profit. Though I have long gone by the age old adage “The show must go on,” mounting medical evidence made it obvious to me [that] large scale gatherings were simply not feasible.
As the lockdown intensified nationwide, other Suwannee events were rescheduled for later in the year in the interest of public safety. While fans were understandably disappointed, no one was more disappointed than I was and am. In my more than 40 years in the music industry I had never cancelled an event. The safety of our patrons will always be my number one priority and the crisis the world faces is undeniable.
Fortunately, the vast acreage of The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park has made it possible for us to continue to be of service to our community. Thanks to our many rental cabins and our over 800 improved campsites with electric and water hookups, we have been able to give shelter to many full-time recreational vehicle travelers who found themselves in desperate need of a place to weather the storm. With social distancing measures in place we have even been able to offer a scaled back number of guests a chance to enjoy the splendor of nature at its finest.
With our stages idle our amazingly dedicated staff has sprung into action to help the community and make substantial improvements for the eventual return of our events. When it became clear that the world-wide shortage of face masks was putting local residents at risk we saw an opportunity to help. Our front office manager Carol Walker, a former professional seamstress, quickly trained our workers in the art of mask making. Our onsite SOS Cafe & Music Hall was quickly repurposed into an assembly line and they have managed to turn out over 7,000 masks to date.
I’ve been a proponent of hand sanitizer use for years thanks to a doctor who took the time to explain just how effective using it alongside regular hand-washing can be to stop the spread of viruses. We ordered in thousands of personal use spritzer bottles, filled them with a rubbing alcohol solution and made them available to guests and staff alike. Possible areas of community spread like our iconic Chapel, bathhouses, and pool were closed immediately and thoroughly scrubbed. Our cleaning staff has worked around the clock to make sure every square inch of our park, from the cabins to our Country Store, offices, and beyond are as sanitary and safe as humanly possible.
Since the restaurant and bathhouses were closed for obvious health and safety reasons the Park General Manager, Teena Peavey, organized the Suwannee staff to take full advantage of the downtime to undergo extensive remodeling of Park buildings. New paths are being cleared and the Park itself has bloomed throughout the spring stronger than ever. When The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park fully re-opens guests can expect substantial improvements to our facilities that simply weren’t feasible due to our packed schedule of events.
Make no mistake…I am fully aware of our unique situation in facing this crisis and am truly humbled at the enduring resilience of the venue my family has built. While we are all facing tough times, we here at The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park are extremely proud of our efforts to pivot from our standard business model while still serving our original core purpose: Providing guests with a fantastic way to embrace nature and experience the world’s original social distancing activity…camping!
Someday, hopefully sooner than later, live music events WILL return, and we here at The Spirit Of Suwannee Music Park will be as joyous as anyone. Until that wonderful day we will strive to provide our patrons with a safe, secure place to enjoy some of life’s simpler pleasures that we sometimes disregard in this fast-paced world. My truest wish is that, in surviving this pandemic’s test of our society, we will see more examples of love and community like the one I have seen from our staff these last few months. We truly ARE all in this together.
President & CEO of the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park
For more information on the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, head here.