Concert performances include Jake Owen, Big and Rich, Runaway June and local band Spayed Koolie.
Spayed Koolie’s Maggie Lyden has a simple answer for why you should go to Founders’ Day Festival in Ocoee next weekend:
“Duh, we’re playing,” she said with a laugh.
The Ocoee Founders’ Day Festival takes place from Friday, Nov. 2, to Saturday, Nov. 3. Concerts run from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 3 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Other events — such as a crafts show, fishing tournament, classic car show and fireworks show — also are held as part of the festival. The concerts are free to attend.
Lyden plays guitar and sings backup vocals for Spayed Koolie, a Southern rock/country band formed by frontman and rhythm guitarist David Dorr, who grew up in Windermere. Dorr started the band in 2007, and Lyden has been playing with the band for about two years. Neal Phillips, who plays the fiddle in the band, joined about four years ago.
The band has up to eight members, depending on the gig. For smaller shows, the band typically brings out three or four members, but for bigger shows — such as Founders’ Day — more members play. Dorr, Phillips and Lyden all live in Clermont, and the other members are all scattered throughout Orange County and Central Florida.
Dorr is a lifelong musician who got his start with the piano. He also played the drums and later taught himself how to play guitar.
“My brother was in a band, and I used to watch him play and was like, ‘Man, that looks like fun,’” Dorr said. “So I taught myself how to play guitar and was blessed with (a voice) that could sing.”
Phillips, originally from Western Pennsylvania, has been playing the violin since he was a child. At age 12, he began playing violin in a symphony orchestra, which he played in until he went to college. He’s competed in various “old-time fiddle” contests in West Virginia and in Pennsylvania, “then discovered playing in bars and fell in love,” he said, laughing.
“It took me two weeks to just learn how to hold the violin,” Phillips said. “I was so uncoordinated, but my teacher was excellent.”
Lyden always sang, but she didn’t always think she was good at it. After experiencing a “life transformation” in 2006, she taught herself how to play for therapeutic reasons, she said.
“I always sang, but everybody used to tell me to shut up when I was little,” Lyden said. “I never actually thought that I was decent at it. … When I moved to Florida, my roommate heard me sing at a karaoke bar once, and she was like, ‘You’re going to audition for a band.’”
The trio agreed that one of their favorite things about performing is the energy and the audience’s reaction.
“The energy that you get back (and) the response from people that actually enjoy something you created, that’s probably my (favorite thing about performing),” Dorr said.
“If you walk out on stage and there’s a huge crowd, it just gives you a surge of adrenaline,” Phillips said.
“It’s like a release,” Lyden said. “The crowd response, that feeds right into everything. It’s just such a cool feeling.”
Mayor Rusty Johnson said Founders’ Day was originally organized by the Ocoee Lions Club but later taken over by the city.
“The Lion’s Club did it for maybe three or four years,” Johnson said. “Then the city took it over (because) it kinda grew.”
Johnson added that Founders’ Day was started as a way to honor the founding of the city of Ocoee and the various families that were present at the time of its founding.
“(Founders’ Day honors) anybody in the city that was here in the old days,” Johnson said. “It’s to honor the founding of the (city) of Ocoee. … There was more than one group of families (here at the time). There was a lot.”
Music always has been a big part of the event. For earlier Founders’ Day concerts, the city experimented with different musical genres to attract larger audiences and help the event grow even more, Johnson said.
“We tried different music,” Johnson said. “We tried oldies but goodies. We tried local entertainment. We tried a little bit of all of it. It didn’t really bring the crowd. … We switched over to country music and found out that was hot, and it’s been the same way now for about 20 years.”
He said although Founders’ Day features mostly country music, other genres — such as classic rock and blues — have been featured.
“We try to find an up-and-coming act,” Johnson said. “Like, we had Blake Shelton one time when he was on the cusp (of getting famous).”
In addition to the concert, other events are held as part of the Founders’ Day festivities. A Chick-fil-A 5K run, fishing tournament and Classic Car Show all take place before the performances start on Saturday. Additionally, a golf tournament will be held Friday, Oct. 26.
“The main (thing we wanted) is having a free concert where citizens of the area — even Winter Garden, Apopka, anywhere — can come here and sit in the grass and enjoy the music without having to worry about paying,” Johnson said.