What to know
Population: Normally 7,950 in Detroit Lakes. During WE Fest, 100,000-plus.
Getting there: The festival is 4 miles southwest of Detroit Lakes on Hwy. 59. From the Twin Cities, it's about 230 miles. Take Interstate Hwy. 94 past Fergus Falls to the Hwy. 59 north exit -- 30 miles to go. Note: If you take Hwy. 10 to Detroit Lakes, then head south on Hwy. 59, the State Patrol will not allow southbound traffic to turn east into WE Fest. Pass by, turn around and get in line on the northbound shoulder.
About the town: A western Minnesota farming, logging and railroad town with a history of good times that goes back to flappers and bathtub gin. Cool lakes drew tourists from the bone-dry plains of North Dakota in the 1890s. John Dillinger hung out there when things got too hot in Chicago, as did Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly. Detroit Lakes still caters to the summer trade, supplying about everything a person might need, although ice, beer, film and sunscreen might be in short supply during WE Fest.
Where to stay
Motels: Although there are 500-plus motel rooms in town, they won't go very far when 100,000 people hit town. Still want to try? For a motel list, call the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce 1-800-542-3992. Or check out their Web site. http://www.detroitlakes.com
Camping at WE Fest is the best option for getting the full flavor of the experience. Prices range from $80 to $100 per site for the event, plus a $50 surcharge per extra vehicle. (Sites are figured per steering wheel. Two motorcycle handlebars equal one steering wheel.) Sites are without individual services, but drinking water and showers are nearby. RVs are regularly serviced by roving sewer and water trucks. Ice is also delivered. Free shuttles run to the music arena. (There is also a handicapped-accessible camp adjacent to the music area.) All campers must have music tickets. For camping permits and music tickets call 1-800-493-3378. Or their Web site at http://www.wefest.com
Where to eat
WE Fest offers food in plentiful variety. But if you want to take a break from the crowd, there are other great places nearby:
The Lakeside (est. 1891), 200 W. Lake Dr., offers tasty burgers, seafood and steaks, plus rarities such as shrimp sauteed with ginger and orange, or broasted quail with cranberries on a bed of wilted spinach.
Paisano's Ristorante, next to the Lakeside, has genuine Italian fare a lot cheaper and faster than you'd expect.
Whitetail, 3 miles west of WE Fest on Hwy. 10. Great homemade food and sourdough bread, and a full selection of microbrews, including the favored local, White Tail Pale Ale.
Fireside on East Shore Drive. Since 1948, it's been Detroit Lakes' favorite fancy place. Check out the Steak Oscar, filet mignon topped with asparagus and crab.
Tickets: $80 gets you three days in the music arena on your own lawn chair. For $175 to $225, you move closer to the stage into reserve seats (their chairs). VIP box seats are $450 and allow you to come and go through your own backstage gate, enjoy great hot meals, beer and wine coolers. All seats have an upfront view of the performance, thanks to a giant video screen atop the stage. Check Twin Cities' Target, Mervyn's and Dayton's stores for discount coupons. To order tickets, call or visit your local Ticketmaster; in the Twin Cities, the number is 989-5151. Or call WE Fest at 1-800-493-3378.