LIVE OAK, FL – With its fresh water springs, meandering wooded paths, and sparkling lake, Suwannee Music Park is normally a tranquil, relaxing place. But on the last weekend in October, this 800-acre slice of paradise assumes a different, more frightful persona as the site of the Suwanee Huluween Festival.
Combining a bag full of musical treats from a diverse array of acts that includes a mix of big name stars like Bassnectar and rising artists, with some tricky scenic elements that scare the senses, the three day festival has become a Halloween ritual for a growing number of fans. Enhancing their experience throughout the grounds as well as at two of its stages this year were over 200 CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied and installed by The Design Oasis.
Abbas Ritscher and his team at The Design Oasis, which included John Hollignshead and Joe Donnelly, positioned 150 COLORado 1-Tri IP fixtures around the lake that served as the “festival centerpiece.” They used the high output RGB fixture to wash monsters, goblins, mad beasts and other freakish figures in a range of scary colors. Drawing on the Rogue fixture’s 16-bit master dimmer, they also relied on the interplay of moving light and shadows to endow the ghoulish scenery with menacing sense of animation.
In addition to illuminating scenic elements, the COLORado units were used to direct light on the lake itself as well as the surrounding trees to impart a haunting sense to the festival grounds. “The COLORados are a workhorse,” said Ritscher, who also installed the fixtures on the festival’s Lake Stage, which was designed by Andy Caroll. “Their color and their IP65 rating made them the obvious choice to use in a festival centered around a lake.”
When they weren’t scaring festival-goers, the CHAUVET Professional fixtures were thrilling them at Suwanee Huluween’s big Amphitheatre Stage. Justin Casey of HELM Projects and his programmer Alex ‘Herm’ Schneider called on a collection of 30 Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures (also supplied by The Design Oasis) to serve up an endless stream of unique looks throughout the festival.
Casey’s design called for 20 of the 5-headed Rogue R1 FX-B units to be positioned (five apiece) on each of the four PA scaffold towers that flanked the stage, two on each side, with the remaining 10 being arranged vertically and horizontally on upstage truss. With the five moving heads on each Rogue R1 FX-B being aimed in various directions, and with the fixtures themselves panning and tilting in a seemingly infinite variety of ways, the RGBW units gave each act a unique look.
“We were actually limited by the structures that we had to mount the R1 FX-Bs on,” said Casey. “However, Alex was able to makes some offsets and put them in the same orientation so our design really popped.”
The Rogue R1 FX-B fixtures also helped Casey fill out the wide Amphitheatre Stage without using an excessively large number of fixtures. “We had a 30-foot wide stage, plus another 30-feet of width from the PA towers,” he said. “The FX-Bs gave us the opportunity to stretch the design out, so it felt bigger and wider. It always seems like you have more fixtures than you do when you use the FX-B.”
A big reason for the success of his design, according to Casey was due to the help that he and Schneider received from their two techs: Justin Lyons and Owen Pike. “Part of this great experience was the great people we got to work with,’ he said. “This includes The Design Oasis team, who are always ready to roll — and their gear is amazing.”
This feeling is reciprocated by Ritscher who said. “Justin Casey designs are spectacular and we really like working with the HELM Projects people.”
The good vibes between HELM Projects and The Design Oasis were echoed by the fans who turned out for this annual event. Words like “awesome,” “amazing,” and “unforgettable” popped up most often in social media reviews of the festival. So, although Halloween may be scary, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun in this corner of Florida.