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WE Fest is just around the corner

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WE Fest is just around the corner
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Yes, it’s almost that time again: The kickoff for WE Fest 2013 is now just a couple of days away.

The crew at FACE (Festivals and Concert Events) Inc. is busy this weekend, readying the campgrounds, concert bowl and stages inside the Soo Pass Ranch, which WE Fest has called home since the inception of the country music extravaganza, 31 years ago.


“We’ve got a bunch of surprises lined up, some of which I can talk about, and some that I can’t,” teased FACE Vice President John Gourley.

The stuff he can talk about includes the WE Club, a members-only, exclusive venue for fest VIPs to enjoy “top-shelf” drinks and live music, both before and after the Main Stage shows; improvements to the video screens, sound and lights on the Main Stage to enhance the audience’s enjoyment; and carnival-style barkers distributing drinks amongst the rows and rows of concert attendees in the reserved and general admission areas.

“We experimented last year with bringing in some barkers, and we had such great response that we’ve really expanded that beverage delivery (service),” Gourley said.

“We’ve also enhanced our whole video and sound production from a year ago. People will really notice the changes.”

Festival-goers will also notice changes to the entire Barn Stage area, which has undergone an extensive renovation project the past couple of years.

“We’ve completely made over that whole Barn Stage and patio area,” said Gourley.

Every night after the Main Stage has closed up shop for the night, the Barn Stage will be open for another couple of hours, showcasing some of country music’s hottest up-and-coming talent.

“Last year, we had Florida Georgia Line up there,” he said. “This year we have a Canadian guy named Corb Lund on Thursday; Dustin Lynch plays there after his regular set on Friday, and Hitchville will be there on Saturday.”

What makes the venue so unique is the up-close, personal environment — and its “excellent track record” of artists being showcased there one year, then “getting huge” the next, Gourley added.

Another big change this year is the addition of a small, members-only club in the concert bowl’s VIP section.

“We’re calling it the WE Club,” said Gourley. “It’s all top shelf beverages, waitresses and waiters … kind of a loungey, private club environment.

“We also will have music there during the day, and after the main stage shuts down. That’s something new for our VIPs to take advantage of … a cool place to unplug and be treated in a really upscale way.”

In addition, all VIP campers will also enjoy improved cuisine.

“We have enhanced our whole VIP catering area, and we’re working with a five star chef,” said Gourley. “The whole VIP experience will be noticeably enhanced this year.”

Though not quite as glamorous, another improvement that all concert goers will love is that there are more flushable toilets than ever before, he added.

The music

While the official start of the music festival isn’t until Thursday, early bird campers will be treated to a special Tuesday pre-party, featuring music from local country favorites including Silverado, Boomtown and the Jason Paulsen Band.

“People are starting to come here earlier and earlier to set up their campsites, so we decided to throw a party just for them,” Gourley said.

The fun begins on the Barn Stage at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.

The official kickoff party gets underway at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, featuring performances by chart-topper Katie Armiger, Walker Hayes and Silverado.

“That whole barn stage is going to be cranked up,” said Gourley.

And speaking of chart-toppers…

“I think this year’s lineup of artists has probably had more No. 1 singles between them than we’ve ever had in WE Fest’s history,” Gourley said, noting that Darius Rucker, Gary Allen, Little Big Town and Armiger have all experienced the view from the top of the music charts over the past 12 months, just to name a few.

“You try to be strategic with your booking, but this year we did that and got lucky too,” he said, adding with a laugh, “it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes.”

The one big surprise that Gourley can’t talk about, however, is what’s going to happen during the introduction of headliner Carrie Underwood, who is slated as the festival’s final performer on Saturday.

“We want to make sure everyone is in their seat for the introduction to Carrie Underwood,” Gourley said. “We’re doing something that has never been done at any music festival event.

“You do not want to miss it — I think it will be international news,” he teased.

WE Fest 2014

Another first for WE Fest this year is that organizers have already begun to sell tickets for next year’s show — and have announced the headliners as well.

“We finally got Zac Brown!” Gourley exclaimed, noting that the band would be one of 2014’s trio of headliners, along with Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley.

“The response for 2014 has already been unprecedented, based on our 31 years of experience,” Gourley said.

“It is stacking up to be another record breaker in every way. When we announce the next wave of bands (to be added to the lineup) in the next few days, people are going to be blown away.”

But for those procrastinators who still don’t have their tickets for this year’s show, there are still a very limited number of general admission seats available, he noted.

“We have both whole weekend passes and a small number of single tickets available … general admission only,” Gourley said. “But don’t wait and be disappointed.”

In other words, the clock is ticking down, and if you wait until the day of the show, it will most likely be sold out.

To purchase WE Fest tickets for either 2013 or 2014, please visit anytime, or call 800-493-3378 on weekdays, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 15 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454