It’s often said that the best things come in small packages. Orange Blossom Revue is no exception.
Born out of a barbecue fundraiser for the Lake Wales (Fl.) Rotary Club, the Revue launched in 2014 and has grown over the past decade to become one of the Sunshine State’s premiere boutique festivals.
The event’s success has no doubt been bolstered by its positioning on the first weekend of December, making it one of the final festivals in the calendar year. For its ninth gathering, taking place on December 1-2, the Revue has drawn in The Wood Brothers, Brent Cobb, Molly Tuttle, Kaitlin Butts, Mike & The Moonpies and more.
According to co-founder Reid Hardman, the event previously had a flexible fall date prior to becoming a standalone celebration, adding that its current date was proposed by fellow co-founder (and amateur meteorologist) Rusty Ingley.
“When we got around to planning the first Orange Blossom, Rusty suggested holding it the first weekend of December because his daughter used to play soccer then and it never rained,” Hardman tells Holler. “I told him then that I’d hold him to that, and so far he’s been right.”
While the festival has since subbed its barbecue roots for musical ones, its philanthropic cause remains. For the first few years of the Revue it continued to benefit the Rotary Club before pivoting to support the Blossom Charitable Foundation — which helps to underwrite art, education and recreation programming in the Lake Wales community — in 2021.
That same year the event welcomed exuberant, genre-bending trio The Wood Brothers, who’ve returned every year since and last year began a collaborative arrangement with the festival to help curate its line-up.
“It’s been great getting to know [The Wood Brothers] and have them come to Lake Wales,” says Ingley. “Getting them on site in 2021 helped them with routing because they had a couple other Florida shows lined up around it. We’ve started to see that more with other bands too, which has been a big part of stepping up our music line-up the last couple years.”
Another recent addition to the Revue is on-site camping, which began in 2022, albeit on a limited scale due to the football team for Lake Wales High School — whose stadium is next to the Revue’s host site of Lake Wailes Park — holding a semi-final game in the statewide playoffs the first night of the show (they’d go on to win the state championship a week later).
Per Hardman, the festival will be back to full camping capacity this year, and not a moment too soon. VIP and RV camping ticket passes have sold out in addition to 75 tent camping spots already being claimed, with plenty of room still to grow in the years to come.
“It’s been great seeing the support for the festival coming out of COVID because we were taking a gamble with a much bigger line-up than we’d ever had before,” says Ingley. “Every year we try to up the ante, so going from 10-15 campers last year to selling out this year has put a lot of wind in our sails thinking that our hard work is beginning to pay off.”
With attendance expected to top 3,000 people for the first time this year, Ingley says that the Revue becomes more like a reunion with each passing year due to the out-of-staters and former Lake Wales residents that it brings back to the area.
“We really think of this event like a homecoming for our community and those who don’t live here anymore,” says Ingley. “We’re a small town with not a lot to offer in regards to fine dining, theater and other nightlife. Having something of this size is a big draw for people to return here to reconnect with family and friends. That’s been one of the most rewarding parts about all of this for me.”
However, what the sub-17,000 population town lacks in nighttime fun it makes up for in daytime adventures. This includes the 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary Bok Tower Gardens, Cypress Gardens (whose water ski team used to put on a show during festival weekend from inside the 300-acre Lake Wales) and the LEGOLAND theme and water park; the optical illusion Spook Hill and the Lake Wales History Museum.
That being said, the Revue is far from the only festival or recurring event there, and with the continued expansion south of the Interstate 4 corridor, Lake Wales is well positioned to continue its growth long into the future.
“We have several cool events scattered throughout the year, but we felt like there was nothing going on like this,” says Hardman. “We have a Mardi Gras celebration that’s the closest thing to the Revue in terms of music, but we also have a Fall Fest, Pioneer Days and art shows. It’s exciting to put on an event like the Orange Blossom Revue that helps our community and makes people think twice about what Lake Wales has to offer.”
For more information on the Orange Blossom Revue click here. For more on the festival, see below: