WE Fest 2022: New stage configuration, RFID, expanded VIP, new bathhouses and more to greet festival goers
WE Fest 2022 starts Thursday, Aug. 4 and ends Saturday, Aug. 6. Here's a little guide to what's new at the festival this year, as well as how to get there, who's playing and even how you can volunteer on site and earn some free festival day passes.
DETROIT LAKES — WE Fest is almost here, and the grounds of the Soo Pass Ranch south of Detroit Lakes are freshly mowed and waiting for music festival campers to begin arriving this week.
"We've done a lot of work this year," said WE Fest General Manager Mark Bjerke on Thursday. "We're getting a lot of compliments on how nice it all looks."
Matt Mithun, who took on a dual role a couple of years ago, as owner of both the festival and the Soo Pass Ranch itself (which had been in his family for many years) said it has enabled him to do some more long-range thinking and investment.
"The stage ... that's probably the big one," he said. "We built a permanent stage and pit."
The new stage and pit area is made of concrete, where in the past the floor of the stage was made of wooden planks, he explained.
Early this coming week, a new, t-shaped thrust off the main stage is going to be installed, forming the boundaries of the new pit area. Artists performing on the main stage will be able to go out on the thrust walkway to the end, where they can turn either right or left onto the second, parallel walkway that forms the top of the T formation.
The new pit area is located to either side of the thrust walkway, bordered on both sides by the top of the T.
The top of the T will be located right where the first row of VIP seats begins, Mithun explained, which will enable the artists to interact with both those standing in the pit area (which has no seating) and those sitting in the VIP area.
"It's very interactive on both sides — the pit and the seating behind the T," he said.
Improvements have also been made to the ranch house and saloon area, and new bathhouses were added in the Blue Ox/Viking campgrounds, replacing some old, outdated structures.
The other major improvement was a technological one, Mithun said: The new "cashless" RFID wristband system, which will be used to handle both admission to the concert bowl and campgrounds, and purchase of food, beverages and other merchandise.
"The credentials (including wristbands) are mailed out when people purchase tickets," explained Bjerke.
When concert goers receive their credentials, they can register the wristbands online, then add in their credit or debit card information, Mithun said, adding that registering ahead of time will streamline their arrival, as the wristbands will be immediately ready for use — both to enter the concert bowl and to make purchases on site.
"If people register and tie payment to their wristbands ahead of time, they can just come right in — no lines," Bjerke said. "We will have kiosks (for activating the wristbands) on site, but we encourage everybody to do it before they get here."
Inside the concert bowl, attendees will notice some other improvements as well, Bjerke said, including an expanded VIP area and a new "Country Club" for general admission and reserved seating ticket holders.
"There's a bigger tent and service area (in VIP), as well as some nice outside space, with tables and chairs so you can enjoy the sunshine," Bjerke said.
"There's delicious food as always, along with some new drinks," said Mithun, adding that the VIP experience now includes "a wider selection of complimentary drinks."
For general admission and reserved seating ticket holders, meanwhile, there is a new Country Club add-on that allows them to enter a large tent on the east side of the general admission area, directly behind the reserved seats, where they can enjoy some additional live music, drink specials and some shaded respite from the heat.
"We're always trying to enhance the general admission experience at the festival," said Mithun, adding that last year, they moved the lawn seating over to the west side of the concert bowl to allow general admission ticket holders to get 200 feet closer to the main stage.
Traffic concerns for those traveling to and from the festival have also been largely alleviated by the fact that the start of construction on the second phase of West Lake Drive improvements planned this summer has been delayed until after the festival is concluded. The first phase of the West Lake Drive project, from County Highway 6 to the bowling alley, will also be temporarily reopened, though motorists will have to use the gravel road bed to travel along that portion.
For those who would prefer to avoid the hassle of driving to and from the festival site, the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce is offering its WE Fest shuttle service. Festival goers can park at the Becker County Fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes, then take a shuttle out to the Soo Pass Ranch, where they can hop off at the festival's west gate, then hop back on at the same location when they're ready to head back to town.
"We're only offering service at the fairgrounds this year," said Jean Erickson, Chamber office manager, noting that they had dropped the downtown pickup site from their schedule due to low usage, as well as navigation difficulties caused by road construction in that area of town.
Cost for using the service is $10 per day or $25 for a 3-day pass, with buses departing the fairgrounds at regular intervals from noon to 2 a.m. on all three days of WE Fest, Aug. 4-6.
As always, the main attraction at WE Fest is the music, and this year's lineup is no exception, with Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan as the headliners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday respectively.
The full main stage lineup is as follows:
- Thursday, Aug. 4: Hitchville, 2:45 p.m.; Elvie Shane, 4 p.m.; Blanco Brown, 6 p.m.; Chris Janson, 8:15 p.m.; Jason Aldean, 10:30 p.m.
- Friday, Aug. 5: Ray Fulcher, 2:45 p.m.; Priscilla Block, 4 p.m.; Clay Walker, 6 p.m.; Lee Brice, 8:15 p.m.; Miranda Lambert, 10:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Aug. 6: Ella Langley, 2:45 p.m.; Ian Munsick, 4 p.m.; Tanya Tucker, 6 p.m.; Riley Green, 8:15 p.m.; Luke Bryan, 10:30 p.m.
Cowboy Troy will be the emcee for all three days of Main Stage action. The fun doesn't start on Thursday, however, as there is a pre-party for early bird ticket holders at the ranch house saloon on Tuesday, Aug. 2, with performers including Johnny Cochran and Uptown, and a kickoff party on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at the Barn Stage, with performers including Poppa Bear Norton and Brianna Helbling. More information is available at the website, wefest.com , which is also where you can purchase ticket and camping packages.
Volunteers still needed for VIP hospitality shifts
For the past several years, the VIP food and beverage service area at WE Fest has been staffed by volunteers — volunteers from the local Boys & Girls Club, who still need a few more people to fill the evening shifts on Friday and Saturday nights.
"We have had a lot of returning volunteers this year, which is fabulous," said Alyssa Hoskins, resource development and marketing coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club. "But we are still looking for people to help with an evening shift, 3:30 to 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights."
In addition to helping the club earn some dough — the club receives money from WE Fest for every hour worked by its volunteers — those who sign for a shift will also get a free festival pass for the day, which means they could watch all the music happening on the main stage when they're not working. This includes the headline acts, Miranda Lambert on Friday and Luke Bryan on Saturday.
"You also get a pass for parking that day as well," Hoskins said.
For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Lisa McLeod at 218-204-0494, or sign up at the club's website, bgcdl.org (there is a pop-up box for WE Fest volunteering when you open the page).