HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — Time may cast a spell on her, but Taylor Sweat won’t forget the night Stevie Nicks performed in her hometown on Halloween night.
Born and raised in Huntsville, Sweat returned to the Rocket City in 2019 with a husband and baby and wanted to find a way to express herself creatively and passionately.
Sweat would soon find that inspiration via local flower farms, creating daily floral bouquets. Customers soon became so impressed by her work that they asked her to create custom arrangements for weddings, leading to her love of floral design.
Now, Sweat is the owner and lead designer of Native Petals, her own small business that creates elaborate arrangements, with flowers still sourced from Huntsville farms, for weddings, corporate events and large-scale installations.
If there’s one thing she loves as much as flowers, it’s the queen of Bella Donna herself: Stevie Nicks.
Her family fostered her love for classic rock, growing up listening to “some of the greatest musicians alive” such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead and, of course, Fleetwood Mac.
So when Sweat learned in August that Nicks would be performing at the Orion Amphitheater on Halloween night, she knew she’d have to get tickets. But Sweat also wanted to give her a special welcome as thanks for spending the holiday in Huntsville, so she reached out to Alex Hendrix, the amphitheater’s artist hospitality manager.
“I let her know that it would be a dream come true if I could flower backstage for Halloween for Stevie,” Sweat said. “And she said, yes, absolutely!”
Sweat and Hendrix then began planning how they would decorate Orion’s guest dining room into a seasonal celebration of Halloween with Huntsville touches.
The pumpkins adorning the tabletops and other areas of the venue were sourced from Reed’s Farmers Market, a family-run business located in Meridianville.
“We just really strived to make sure that we were representing Huntsville in every way that we could. We got everything locally from the pumpkins to the flowers,” Sweat said. “I really wanted to represent my hometown in this huge, monumental thing that was happening, for Stevie choosing to be here with us on Halloween.”
While workshopping the decor set up, Sweat texted Hendrix a picture of a special witch hat topped with dry flowers she created last October, she suggested an idea she couldn’t say no to.
“Alex loved it and replied, ‘Wow, could you make one of those for us to give Stevie in her dressing room as a gift?’ and I said, ‘Say no more,'” Sweat said.
While decorating the dining hall was the most labor-intensive, Sweat said making Nicks’ hat was the most significant. Using flowers she had dried over the seasons in her studio, she created a crown fit for Huntsville’s queen of Halloween, which was placed in her dressing room as a surprise.
In lieu of payment, Sweat requested backstage passes to the concert, which included getting to enjoy the amphitheater’s artist meadow, a private area for VIPs outdoors. The area was transformed into a pumpkin patch, curated for the band and crew members to carve pumpkins, sip cider and admire the outdoor scenery in the hours leading up to the show.
Though she hoped to meet the star of the show herself, Stevie wasn’t present for the outdoor event.
Later that night, Sweat took her seat in the 13th row from the front in the pit, along with her husband, mom and aunt. As Nicks performed and revealed outfit changes throughout the show, Sweat held her breath that she would appear with her handmade gift atop her head.
“I would pull out my phone every time she would exit the stage and be recording for her entrance back onto the stage in hopes of her wearing the hat,” Sweat said. “I have videos of me where you can hear me in the background saying, ‘please wear the hat, please wear the hat.'”
Towards the end of the show, Sweat began feeling discouraged as it seemed her hat would not be worn. However, she shook off any negative emotions, comforting herself that the fact she was able to be a part of the experience was enough.
As the crowd cheered for an encore, the bandmates began to take the stage again, this time donning witch’s hats, Sweat held her breath. When Nicks took the stage, a whiplash of emotion quickly unfolded in a matter of seconds.
“We saw the silhouette of the witch hat and I said to [my family], ‘it’s not my hat,'” Sweat said, “Then, the light hit the hat and I could see the dried flowers, the band of the hat and I was absolutely over the moon with joy.”
As the band began to play the notes to the ballad of a witch, all Sweat could do was stare and remember to breathe.
“That buildup was insane for me emotionally, and then those cords to the beginning of ‘Rhiannon’ started and she twirled around in that purple cape and you could see all of the hat,” Sweat said, choking up. “I could cry right now just remembering it.”
Sweat plans to post about the night in her own words on her business’s official Instagram. Currently, a TikTok she’s posted documenting the experience has over 270,000 views and almost 4,000 comments from Stevie’s fans celebrating the moment with her.
“Everyone on TikTok has been so extremely supportive and validating and I’m so thankful for that,” Sweat said. “They’re all just so nice and happy and people are telling me they were crying with me in the video when I crowned the queen on Halloween.”
Sweat said, before the concert, she considered “Gypsy” her favorite Stevie Nicks song. Now, she says she’s on the “Rhiannon” bandwagon, as she’ll always associate it with one of the greatest moments of her life.
“I think [the moment] is forever imprinted in my brain,” Sweat said. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it.”
And as Nicks’ final words of the show were, “well, this is the best Halloween I can ever remember having,” it may be safe to say she’ll always remember the kind souls she encountered in Huntsville, both in the audience and between the scenes.