DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — WE Fest will be staying put at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch for the foreseeable future, according to new owners Live Nation.
However, the festival's new organizers will be taking a year off to regroup.
"After careful consideration, we have decided to postpone WE Fest 2020 and come back strong in August of 2021," Brian O'Connell, president of country touring for Live Nation and creator of its Country Nation festivals, said Monday morning, Nov. 4.
Contrary to the rumors that have been circulating, O'Connell added, that doesn't mean they are looking for a new home.
"All of the rumors that are flying around that we're going to move the festival and all that kind of stuff are not true," he said. "We want to take the time to get to know the 37-year tradition of WE Fest and talk to as many people as we can who have been involved with it. ... There is a lot of history that we need to be respectful of, and a lot of people who are very invested in this festival."
O'Connell added that since the acquisition of WE Fest from Townsquare Media took place so close to the 2019 festival, he and his team "didn’t feel like we had a good enough handle on things" to begin lining up acts for the following year and announce the first of next year's headliners during the event, as had been the tradition under previous owners.
"Instead of just booking a band and throwing tickets up on sale and figuring the rest of it out later, we hit the brakes," he said.
Townsquare Media, a Connecticut-based media company, purchased the Detroit Lakes festival in 2014 for $21.5 million in cash, along with stock and other considerations. On Aug. 6, Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson announced the $10 million sale of about 200 events, including WE Fest, to Live Nation.
By canceling the 2020 festival, and giving themselves an extra 12 months to plan, O'Connell added, Live Nation hopes to get a better handle on what fans want (and don't want) to see, what the community's expectations are, what has worked in the past and what hasn't — and how all that fits in with their own expertise in running music festivals across the country.
"It is our intention to restore WE Fest to its proper place nationally, and locally, as a premier festival," he continued. "Hopefully, it will last another 37 years. That's our goal."
O'Connell also noted that Live Nation wants to be "as transparent as possible" with regard to its future plans for WE Fest, in order to minimize unfounded rumors and speculation about where the festival is headed.
Of course, that speculation has already begun.
"Thank you to Townsquare Media (New York City, N.Y.) and Live Nation (Beverly Hills, Calif.) for ruining and officially killing one of the largest and most successful country music festivals in the world in only a few short years," wrote one upset fan who shared the Detroit Lakes Tribune's post on Facebook.
"Well if it helps make it as great as it used to be, then I guess a year off is okay," wrote a more optimistic Facebook user.
Meanwhile, some Twitter fans have already started a petition at change.org for Live Nation to "Bring Back WE Fest 2020."