Big crowds, good weather and great music add up to a 'Landmark year' at WE Fest
BY VICKI GERDES
Though the final tally hasn’t yet been determined, it appears as though attendance at this year’s WE Fest was at or near record levels once again.
“We were certainly knocking on the door of 50,000 people in terms of the daily (attendance) count,” said John Gourley, WE Fest’s chief marketing officer. “It’s been a really incredible year. We broke our 30th anniversary number in terms of (ticket) sales, and we also had more campers than we’d ever had before… there were a number of campgrounds we’d never completely filled, that were absolutely full.
“We won’t have the real data for another 4-5 days, but we’re sure it was a new record.”
Gourley said the near-perfect weather undoubtedly helped.
“It was literally perfect, every day,” he added. “Even the couple of little sprinkles we had on Saturday were just enough to cool everybody off, and it never really got cold, even if you were a little damp.”
The largest rainfall of the evening on Saturday occurred right at the break between acts, “as if we’d planned it that way,” Gourley said.
With such unblemished weather, there were plenty of music highlights as well, he added.
“People just had a great time this year. Brad Paisley’s production was unbelievable, and Zac (Brown) couldn’t have been better,” Gourley continued. “I thought Brantley Gilbert’s show was great — he’s raised the bar. He’s absolutely somebody to watch. The Band Perry (in their WE Fest debut) were just superb, with amazing vocals. The talent lineup was one of the best we’ve ever had. It was a landmark year, top to bottom.”
There was plenty to be happy about from a law enforcement perspective as well.
According to Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon, aside from a stabbing incident near the concert venue on Thursday night, only one other noteworthy incident occurred.
“There was a guy who was waving a gun around, and it was loaded, but he wasn’t really pointing it at anyone,” Shannon said. “We got on that right away, took away the weapon and charged him.”
With regard to the knife incident, Shannon had some words of praise for WE Fest’s security in their handling of the crime scene.
“They were there first, and they really protected the crime scene for us,” Shannon said. “The evidence could have been destroyed, but it wasn’t. They controlled the scene so that nobody could get at it.
“It’s really impressive how everyone works together out there… WE Fest’s internal security and staff, the horse patrol and everyone. All of the staff is experienced and everyone just kind of knows what to do.”
Dispatchers at the Becker County Sheriff’s Department told WDAY a total of about 225 calls tied to the event, which resulted in 70 bookings at the county jail, including 18 for driving while intoxicated and 15 for disorderly conduct. There were also 42 medical calls to the WE Fest grounds, the WDAY report stated.
“Overall, I think on our end it was definitely one of the better years,” Shannon said. “We had a lot of calls, but I think our count was down somewhat, and our arrests were down.”
Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten also reported that “we had no major incidents within the city during the festival, and “the people who used the city beach were, for the most part, friendly and cooperative.”
“The roundabout worked very well compared to the four-way stop that had been there before,” Eggebraaten added. “Traffic flow was very heavy but we had few issues at that intersection… it was a good weekend from our perspective.”
Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow also reported that the weekend went “fairly well overall.”
“The goal is to get through a large event like this without any serious crashes or fatalities on our highways, and we did that,” he added. “There was definitely plenty of activity, but not seeing any crashes in the area involving serious injuries or fatals, that’s very important.”
The State Patrol reported a total of 609 traffic stops from Wednesday through Sunday, including 91 for seat belt violations, 159 for speed, 21 for driving with a revoked, suspended or canceled license, 150 for equipment violations and seven for texting while driving.
Most importantly, there were only eight arrests for driving while intoxicated, Grabow said, which is “very consistent with the last few years.”
“There’s always room for improvement, but it’s nice to see that trend (toward fewer DWI violations),” he added, noting that 10 or 20 years ago, there might have been 50 or 60 DWI arrests over the same time period.
“We want people to make good, smart choices every time they get into that vehicle. That’s our goal… that people get to and from their destinations safely.”
Tickets going fast for 2015
Though this year’s festival is only just concluded, Gourley said tickets for WE Fest 2015 are already selling at a record pace.
“Frankly, it’s just blowing our minds,” he said. “We have sold more tickets, earlier than ever before. It’s on a whole different pace from what we’ve ever experienced.”
Part of the reason may be that two of the headliners, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, were announced when the tickets first went on sale July 7.
“Blake and Miranda are super hot,” Gourley said. “We’re going to have some additional talent announcements in the next few weeks as well, but I would still urge people not to put off their ticket purchases.”
For more information about 2015 ticket sales, please visit the website at www.wefest.com, or call the box office at 800-493-3378 (open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.