WE Fest gets under way
From his office looking over the Soo Pass Ranch, WE Fest President Jeff Krueger was upbeat Tuesday about this year's event as the campers were settling into their sites.
"This could be a record year," he said, referring to attendance.
Across the country, the touring industry has suffered this summer.
Krueger said already 45,000 people were coming for the three days of music, which officially starts Thursday afternoon. Soo Pass can hold about 50,000.
But he added that not all of those 45,000 people bought tickets. Some people won promotional prizes, others traded sponsorship for passes, and others are working the festival.
Krueger said sales were slow until a post-Christmas promotion - $99 general-admission tickets for all three days - got things moving.
Tickets are still available at the gates for $65 a day for general-admission passes or $165 for a three-day pass.
Sales for reserved seats - those colored chairs in front of the stage - has been stubborn. In an effort to get people in those seats, Krueger randomly upgraded tickets for some Lake Sallie campers who have been coming for 10 years and had general-admission tickets.
The campgrounds opened at 11 a.m. Tuesday, about an hour ahead of schedule, because traffic was lined up a mile north and south of Soo Pass on Tuesday morning, a staffer said.
Many Lake Sallie campers didn't need a ticket upgrade to get into the WE Fest spirit.
After waiting in line for about 90 minutes before getting to their campsite at 11:30 a.m., Laurie Garcia, John Stigman and Kip Emerson, all of Osakis, Minn., and Larry and Deanne Fimon of Alexandria, Minn., were making their campsite homey.
"It isn't all out yet," Fimon said, explaining the area would be decorated with red, white and blue lights to go with the red, white and blue fence around his camper.
He's been coming since the festival started in 1983, or, "the beginning of time," as he calls it.
He runs inside his camper and grabs a photo album, one of 10 he has documenting the years.
"There's our first camper. We threw a mattress in the back of the pickup truck," he said as his wife looked on. "We moved up when we got a camper the second year."
The group was waiting on friends who are bringing T-shirts that say "God is great, beer is good and people are crazy." Those friends will also bring the beer to fill Fimon's 2-by-4-foot cooler.
They were all looking forward to seeing Kenny Chesney on Saturday.
A ways away, a group of young 20-somethings represented the new guard of WE Festers, playing beer pong. They were all looking forward to Kid Rock on Friday.
"Friday is going to be the best day ever," said Andy Fischer.
Tickets are already on sale for next year's event, Aug. 4-6. It was already announced Brad Paisley will headline that Thursday night show and Rascal Flatts will close the festival on Saturday. Krueger said he would announce at least one of the major acts for the Aug. 5 bill during Thursday's show.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533.
If you go
What: WE Fest
When: Thursday through Saturday
Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes
Info: Tickets from $65 for a general admission day pass to $165 for a three-day general admission pass. Camping still available at Woodchuck and Valley campgrounds. (800) 493-3378