After establishing itself as one of the biggest country music and camping festivals outside the South, We Fest will take a hiatus in 2020 after 37 years at Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Minn., but return in 2021.
Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, purchased We Fest this year and its leaders decided that they need more time to evaluate and plan the three-day event that typically takes place the first weekend in August.
“In order to do the best possible job we can, we will be using 2020 as a planning year,” We Fest’s website announced Monday.
The sale to Live Nation was disclosed shortly after this year’s fest featuring Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton and Brooks & Dunn.
Townsquare Media of Connecticut sold We Fest and other properties to Live Nation for a reported $10 million. Townsquare had purchased the Detroit Lakes festival in 2014 for a reported $21.5 million from a group led by Minneapolis promoter Randy Levy, who became involved with the northern Minnesota hoedown in its third year. With Alabama as its headliner, the festival was launched in 1983 by promoter Jeff Krueger.
We Fest reportedly reached a peak attendance of 150,000 in 2016. Over the years, it has presented the biggest names in country music including Kenny Chesney, Merle Haggard and Taylor Swift as well as such music legends as Ray Charles, Ringo Starr and Little Richard.
In the early ‘00s, Krueger also staged Spirit Fest, a Christian music gathering, at the Soo Pass Ranch for four years, and Levy presented the 10,000 Lakes Festival there featuring Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic, John Mayer and other jam-oriented acts for five years, ending in 2009.
While doing its homework, Live Nation might want to assess the competition. In addition to the well-established Country Jam in Eau Claire and Country Fest in Cadott, Wis., the more modest ND Country Fest was founded in 2017 in New Salem, N.D., about four hours west of Detroit Lakes. This year’s fest in mid-July starred Travis Tritt, Kentucky Headhunters and Jake Owen; next year’s ND affair will feature Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson and Little Texas. It hopes to grow to the size of Winstock in Winsted, Minn., which has booked Luke Combs and Darius Rucker to headline its 27th edition in June 2020.
Moreover, in recent years, the Twin Cities have played host to several country stadium concerts, featuring the likes of Garth Brooks, Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan and Chesney, that might give metro fans their necessary fix of twang and beer.
This year saw the inaugural Twin Cities Summer Jam country-and-rock festival in Shakopee with such high-profile stars as Rascal Flatts, Aerosmith and Tim McGraw. Promoters have announced its return to Canterbury Park next summer.
Live Nation is affiliated with many of country music's top attractions, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett. So rumors of We Fest's demise seem unfounded.