Day-tripping at the Purple Hatter’s Ball

By Anita Stewart, Tampa Correspondent and Elizabeth Lauro, Photographer


Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People, Mingo Fishtrap, Random Rab, Alex & Allyson Grey, memories of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, huge group hugs, tie-dye and MORE…

Rachel Morningstar Hoffman

The Story Of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman And The Famous Purple Hat

The Purple Hatter’s Ball is an annual tradition in this part of the panhandle of Florida. This event is a benefit and a celebration of life for Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, a young free-spirited 23 year old from Clearwater, Florida who had just finished college at Florida State University in 2008. Rachel loved music and attended live music events, often wearing a big floppy purple hat. She was arrested for a small amount of marijuana and was told by the Tallahassee Police Department that if she assisted them with a sting operation involving convicted felons, cocaine and weapons she would not have to go to jail. The sting operation went down in May of 2008 and tragically, it went horribly wrong very quickly and Rachel was murdered. Her family began a Foundation in her name and new legislation was created (“Rachel’s Law”) that defines stricter parameters and specific criteria that police can use when acquiring informants for stings, arrests and other law enforcement business.

See more about the Rachel Morningstar Foundation and “Rachel’s Law” here


Anita_Elizabeth_Purple Hatter-1
Anita Stewart & Elizabeth Lauro

Spirit Of The Suwannee 

There cannot be enough said about how lovely this venue is. At the Spirit of the Suwannee, live music events take place all year long. It is basically a small village out in the middle of woods near Live Oak, Florida that can accommodate thousands of people and it is family friendly with stores, vendors, restaurant, rustic camping, cabins and golf carts for rent, RV camping, swimming at the river and a swimming pool. Everyone is friendly and nothing can be better than having your choice of what to see and do.

More info here

It Really Is All About The Music

The two biggest festivals of the year are the Purple Hatter’s Ball in May and Hulaween in October. CLICK HERE for more about Hulaween 2015. For the big festivals all four stages in the park are used, so there is music happening at all times.

There is a schedule of smaller music events throughout the year.

CLICK HERE for the upcoming schedule for 2015

The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park was named the Best Live Music Venue in Florida in 2009 by Florida Monthly Magazine.

Lineup for Friday, May 8th:

Mingo Fishtrap

Mingo Fishtrap

Mingo Fishtrap funked it up early in the afternoon on Friday but had the small crowd dancing and getting in the mood for the night time. Definitely some very cool blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, rock, funk, a bit of jazz. Reminded this writer of Tower of Power and their very tight brass and percussion sections. Great covers and very expressive original tunes, too. A must see if you wanna get your groove on!


Random Rab 1-1
Random Rab

Random Rab and Artists Alex & Allyson Grey

Random Rab is known for his trippy psychedelia/electronica music that he played while Alex and Allyson Grey created some painted masterpieces on the main amphitheater stage. Alex was working on a giant pot leaf on a yellow background while Allyson Grey was doing something with red cubes and unique glyphs on her canvas. Everyone danced and the performance came to a climax with a giant group hug…



Nahko & Medicine for the People

Nahko and Medicine for the People

Nahko and the Medicine for the People has cemented a name for themselves as co-creators of a new genre that this writer calls “Tribal Music.” Others call it “Socially Conscious Music.” Some examples of Tribal Music musicians and groups would be SOJA, Trevor Hall, Xavier Rudd, Michael Franti and Spearhead for example. If I had interviewed the band, I would have asked them some questions about this new genre of music and what makes it different.

Nahko and Medicine for the People had a slightly different line-up (they are a musical collective so this is not unusual as members also work on solo projects). Instead of Dustin Thomas (“Little Buffalo”), a new bassist performed and Hope Medford, percussionist and vocalist did not play at this show. Nahko and the band served up their beautiful music and the crowd danced and sang along. Nahko’s vision for the band?“To be a catalyst for big environmental and social change in all kinds of communities. We’re already seeing that, so I think that’s destiny.”


Loved the hippie vibe of this place! From tie-dyed clothing, beads, long skirts, people swinging poi, hula hoops, face painting, music merchandise, vegan food, smoothies, pizza, hamburgers, wine, beer, even coffee, art, books, jewelry, clothing, hats…great vendors in the village! All kinds of people commune at this festival; families with children, couples with dogs, students, senior citizens, a great mix who are all there for the music and digging the peace and love all around. Don’t miss Hulaween! We will see you there!



Nahko & the Medicine for the People

Mingo Fishtrap


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Anita Stewart
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