The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every industry and person in the United States over the past two months. Very few, however, have been hit as hard as live events and the venues that host them. While state and local governments find ways to navigate the new “normal”, music venues are hard at work developing creative and comparatively safe ways to stay in business.
The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL has detailed some of the adaptations it has made in its business model and operational processes in order to keep on-site campers safe and in compliance with social distancing guidelines. In addition to hosting a variety of festivals like Suwannee Spring Reunion, Suwannee Rising, Suwannee River Jam, and Suwannee Hulaween, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL also doubles a massive, 700+ acre, campground—which remains open to campers, albeit with additional restrictions.
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued his “Safer At Home” executive order, which “obliterated” the park’s spring festival season, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park knew it would have to adapt its business model to stay afloat and keep its employees working during the social distancing era.
As James Cornett, President/CEO of Cornett’s Spirit of the Suwannee, explains in a press release, “We knew that we needed appropriate safety gear for our staff and ideally for our guests too. But the supply chain was difficult to deliver timely, so we decided to figure out how to do it on our own.”
The team at Spirit of the Suwannee went to work scrounging together fabric, elastic, and sewing materials to make protective masks in-house at the park. The operation has since grown significantly. Explains Cornett, “We started at our own home making masks for family and friends and it quickly became obvious that we needed to grow to a larger scale. Some of our staff had been laid off due to the government mandate to close restaurants. As part of this project we have hired them back to make masks in large quantities.”
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In addition to designing and executing this mask-making operation, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park also implemented new measures to keep their campground patrons safe while enjoying the fresh air, rivers, and woods the park has to offer.
“Before clocking in, each employee must present a body temperature of less than 100 degrees, show no sign of illness or cough, and have no symptoms of the virus,” Peavey explains.
The park also enlisted the services of 30-year disaster relief restoration veteran Chuck Pennington to aid in sanitization efforts. “We have state-of-the-art foggers that disburse a sanitation solution that employs a three-minute dwell time,” notes Pennington. “The products that we are using are among the most effective against viruses according to CDC testing.” All of the key areas in which guests or workers gather are being cleaned frequently with this method, including the Check-In Office and Country Store.
“We immediately closed our 700+ acre campground to only self-contained camper units and closed our bath houses and swimming pool,” said General Manager Teena Peavey. She elaborated, “It’s important to social distance, so we have applied the same concept when guests check-in. We don’t allow campers to be positioned on an adjacent site. They are spaced out well enough to comply with social distancing measures.” These changes, said Peavey, have helped to grow the park’s camping business during the ongoing crisis.
Just yesterday, organizers for Suwanee Hulaween posted an update on the festival’s status to its social media pages.
“There are too many unknown variables to place tickets on sale for Hulaween at this time. That said, we have reserved October 29-November 2, 2020, at our home, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park,” the statement read.
“Our wishful thinking to host Hulaween 2020 is balanced by the realities of safely producing the show you deserve. We feel your support and miss you more than ever,” it concluded.
While it is too early to guess whether or not an event of that size is feasible, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park has made it clear that it will prioritize the health and safety of its staff and patrons as we all navigate an eventual return to live events.
For the latest information on Suwannee Hulaween, head to the festival’s website. Additionally, check out Live For Live Music‘s concert cancellation tracker for daily updates on shows around the world.