Suwannee, How They Love Ya This Time Music Park's Got the Blues

By Green, Tony | The Florida Times Union, September 13, 1996 | Go to article overview

Suwannee, How They Love Ya This Time Music Park's Got the Blues


Green, Tony, The Florida Times Union


Vickie Bass pulled the golf cart to a halt. It was the last

stop in a tour of Live Oak's Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, in

all its 580-acre Spanish moss-and-oak tree-lined splendor.

"This," said Bass, the park's event consultant, regarding a

football field-sized expanse of grass, "is where we we hold the

Suwannee River Jam every year. And we expect it to be packed for

our next big event."

That "next big event" however, isn't a country or bluegrass or

a folk performance, the styles of music the park has come to be

known for. It's tomorrow's Suwannee Blues Music Festival, a hot

blues/rock/R&B bill featuring B.B. King, the Neville Brothers

and Delbert McClinton.

If it seems like the park is trying to expand its appeal,

you're right, said Bass. The park has always had appeal as a

campground. It's capable of hosting 1,000 RVs or tents at a

time, and a view of the Suwannee River is never far away. And,

thanks to the Suwannee River Jam, it has gained a reputation as

a place to go to hear country and bluegrass.

But ever since James Cornette -- whose parents have owned the

park since 1986 -- took over as promotions director last year,

things have been jumping off in different directions.

"There's been a concerted effort to look around and see where

we had room to expand our focus," she said.

And it's been working. The Suwannee River Jam -- advertised as

the largest country music event in the South -- is still the

park's top-attended music event, Last year's edition, which

featured big name acts like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard,

drew 30,000. This year's event (Oct. 4-6), with Alabama and

Trisha Yearwood, expects to draw at least as many.

But the other events have obvious potential.

In its second year, the Hot Cajun Nights weekend doubled its

attendance to over 3,000 last month. The response to the blues

festival has been "overwhelming," said Bass. Both she and

Cornette expect the final attendance to easily top 5,000. …

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