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WE Fest 2013 ends ‘out of this world’

WE Fest fans in the front row of the VIP seating area sing along with Dustin Lynch Friday afternoon. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE

With picture-perfect weather and a top-notch music lineup, WE Fest closed out its 2013 run on Saturday before near sold-out crowds — and an introduction for its final act that was, quite literally, out of this world.

“The 31st annual WE Fest, with the cooperation of NASA, created a once in a lifetime introduction for Grammy winner and international country music star, Carrie Underwood, for her Saturday, Aug. 3 performance at WE Fest,” said a news release issued by WE Fest hosts Festivals and Concert Events, Inc., on Tuesday.

Underwood, via a special video link, was welcomed on stage by Vining, Minn., native Karen Nyberg — currently serving at the International Space Station circling earth in a 255-mile-high orbit.

Getting NASA’s cooperation for the unique promotional event was quite an endeavor in and of itself, said FACE, Inc., Vice President John Gourley.

“We’ve been working on it for months,” he added. “If you think you’ve got a little complexity in your day, try to get NASA to approve this idea. I have a whole new appreciation for the concept of red tape. But they finally ‘got it’ and thought it was a great idea and blessed it, so that’s all that matters.”

Though the final attendance numbers have not yet been calculated, Gourley said that if it wasn’t completely sold out, it was close enough to make no difference.

“I would certainly classify it as a sellout,” he said, adding that there were literally no more than a handful of tickets left on Friday morning, which was the last time he checked.

Whether it was in the campgrounds, the concert bowl or backstage, everything went about as smoothly as it could go, Gourley added.

“The general comment was that it’s been one of our smoothest years,” he said.

Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon agreed, saying that WE Fest went well from a law enforcement perspective.

“The first three days went very well, slower than usual (for law enforcement),” Shannon said.

But “the last day kind of kicked it in,” he added, with a lot more activity requiring law enforcement response.

In all, there were 329 calls for service, and 63 arrests among all law enforcement agencies working the area during WE Fest.

Overall, Shannon said, “the cooler weather helped — people didn’t want to fight all the time.”

“It certainly is nice to have perfect weather,” Gourley noted.

But the lack of rainfall did create one unexpected difficulty — dust.

“We had more of a dust issue than ever before,” said Gourley. “We’re in the planning stages to take aggressive action for next year in terms of dust control.”

In fact, the planning for WE Fest 2014 actually began a few months ago, he added.

“We have a large staff that works on this show year round,” said Gourley. “It takes that long to put together a show of this magnitude.”

The response to the decision to open up ticket sales for next year a month before the 2013 festival opened has paid dividends already, he added.

“We continue to have an incredible response for 2014,” Gourley said. “It certainly seems like we have a talent selection that people are going crazy over; that makes you feel good.”

Performers announced for WE Fest 2014 include headliners Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band — with the latter making its WE Fest debut.

“Zac (Brown) has never been at WE Fest,” said Gourley. “Hard to believe!”

They will be joined by The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert.     

Detroit Lakes Newspapers editor Nathan Bowe contributed information for this story.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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