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The view from the stage at Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes will look out on a maximum crowd of 46,000 fans during WE Fest, which begins today. (Michael Vosburg /The Forum)

WE Fest begins today

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
WE Fest begins today
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The music hasn't even started for this year's WE Fest, but organizers are already drumming up interest for next summer's country lineup.


Tickets go on sale for the 2010 festival at 2 p.m. today on the WE Fest grounds, with two headliners announced.

Chyrll Sparks, co-producer of the festival, confirmed that Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban will headline what's billed as "Let's go again in 2010." Tickets will range from $75 for a three-day, music-only general-admission pass to $1,000 for a three-day VIP Gold Circle seat.

After sales end Saturday, tickets will go back on sale after the complete lineup is announced, likely in October, Sparks said.

Festival organizers could afford a little look into the future because Wednesday proved to be an almost relaxing day at Soo Pass Ranch. Unlike past years, the day before the music starts was free of traffic congestion and people scrambling for camping spots.

Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon credited early camping, with grounds opening up at noon on Tuesday, for relatively few traffic hassles.

"The early opening helped," he said Wednesday from a staging site on the festival grounds. He said there was some congestion around noon on Tuesday when gates opened, but that within an hour things were running smoothly.

He said the Sheriff's Department will have 29 part-time licensed officers working traffic detail and 19 sworn officers working overtime throughout the weekend. Those extra hours will be reimbursed by WE Fest.

Sparks estimated that half of the 30,000 expected campers arrived early. She said a total of 43,000 music tickets had been sold before Wednesday and that the festival could reach its capacity of 46,000.

Of those taking advantage of the early camping were husband and wife Jeremy and Missy Pape of Motley, Minn.

"It was easy," Jeremy said, adding he only waited for a few campers to get in ahead of him.

While Missy carried a couple of beers from their campground, he was carrying a pair of 2-by-6 pieces of wood on his way to help stabilize a friend's camper Wednesday afternoon. But what he was really looking forward to were tonight's headliners, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins.

"They should've been Saturday night to close it out," he said.

There wasn't information about who would close next year's festival, but Sparks said the festival has "a lot of irons in the fire" for other acts to round out the schedule, and added talent buyers are still thinking outside the box to bring in someone who could rock the country boat a bit, like Sheryl Crow in 2007 or the booking of Ray Charles years ago.

"Ideally, we wanted to have the Eagles here this year," Sparks said backstage Wednesday afternoon as workers put the finishing touches around the grounds. Instead, the classic country rockers played the Fargodome in March.

Still, she's pumped about Urban returning.

"He's fabulous in the headlining spot," she said of the singer/guitarist. "He's the future of country music. He's an adept instrumentalist. I don't know how long you can last just singing."

Likewise, she's thrilled about Chesney returning after headlining most recently in 2008.

"He's the Elvis of our time," she said. "People love him and always come out to see him."

This year she's excited to hear the roots stylings of Joey + Rory on Friday afternoon and predicts people will be hearing more from the husband and wife duo.

If you go

# What: WE Fest, today through Saturday

# When: Gates open at 2 today

# Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

# Tickets: Tickets are still available at the gates from $70 for single-day tickets to $650 for three-day VIP box seats. (800) 493-3378.

# Today: Silverado, 2:45; 32 Below, 4:15; Sawyer Brown, 6:15; Trace Adkins, 8:30; Toby Keith, 10:45.