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WE Fest attendance up overall, despite weather glitch

Organizers of the WE Fest country music festival, which wrapped its three-day run at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch on Saturday, are already busy gearing up for its 40th anniversary celebration in 2023.

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Some WE Fest attendees raised their glasses for the camera after Tanya Tucker's set on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — WE Fest is turning 40 next year, and organizers are already gearing up for a larger-than-life celebration of the milestone on Aug. 3-5, 2023.

"I think people will be extremely pleased with the lineup," said WE Fest General Manager Mark Bjerke on Monday, Aug. 8, adding that an official announcement of the full lineup will be coming sometime in October. "We've been listening to the talk on social media, and I think we’ve put together a show people will be really proud to be a part of for our 40th anniversary."

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Tanya Tucker performs for the WE Fest crowd on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Though they didn't announce any of the 2023 headliners during this year's show, Bjerke said, it wasn't because they didn't know who was coming. "We were ready to make an announcement, but it was part of the agreement with the artist that we don't announce them until we announce the rest of the lineup."

That announcement will be coming sometime in October, Bjerke said, which is when most of the tickets will be going on sale — though those who purchased seats at this year's festival are already able to renew them for 2023.

Speaking of this year's festival, he said it went "very well."

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"There’s always two festivals — the one the customers and patrons see, and the one that all of us putting it on see," he said.

Behind the scenes, there was a bit of a ticketing problem, but it was resolved by the time the festival started, he added.

"People got their tickets late, but everybody got in to see the concerts," he said. "It just took a little longer in some cases."

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A couple dances to the music of Ian Munsick at WE Fest on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Miranda Lambert's performance nixed by weather

As is always the case with outdoor venues, weather is a factor — and on Friday night, the concert bowl shut down around 7:30 p.m. due to an incoming thunderstorm, and never opened back up, causing the evening's performance by headliner Miranda Lambert to eventually be canceled — an unprecedented event.

"To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think we’ve ever had a headliner not perform," said Bjerke, "though sometimes they've gone on later, or maybe earlier, depending on the weather."

It wasn't for lack of trying that Lambert was not able to perform, however. Bjerke said that the artist had actually flown in early, on a private jet, to avoid the forecasted storms, and was waiting patiently in the wings to be able to go out on stage.

"She was all ready to go," he said, and as her original start time of 10:30 p.m. came around, it looked like she might be able to take the stage, albeit a bit late.

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"It looked like we had a window where we could get Miranda on, close to 11:30 or midnight," he said.

But just as they were ready to call the spectators back into the concert bowl and begin the process of prepping the stage for Lambert's performance, the two meteorologists who were on site at the Soo Pass Ranch came back with an updated report that said the lightning wasn't going to clear until close to 2 a.m. — which was simply too late for a concert.

"You can't be on a stage that size, with all that metal, when there's lightning within eight miles (of the venue)," Bjerke explained. "In the past, when a headliner has gone on late, it's just been raining, so we didn't have to evacuate the bowl."

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case this year, so the call was eventually made to cancel Lambert's performance. Rescheduling for the following day wasn't really an option, he added, due to the "tight scheduling" that was already in place.

Because artists like Lambert are typically booked 12-18 months in advance, bringing her back for 2023 was not really feasible either, Bjerke said, though he didn't rule out the possibility that she could return at a later date.

Saturday crowds enjoyed mix of veterans, newcomers

Saturday's schedule went off without any further glitches, though there were times when it appeared as though there would be a few light showers. It certainly didn't dampen spirits, if the crowds that showed up to enjoy the day's performers were anything to go by.

Ella Langley got things going early on the Main Stage, then headed over to the Country Club in the general admission area of the concert bowl to provide a more intimate performance for the club's patrons.

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Artist Ella Langley performs for the Country Club crowd at WE Fest on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Ian Munsick started things off with a lively cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," before showcasing his just-released new single, "More than Me," which he said took him three years to write.

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Ian Munsick performs for the crowd at WE Fest on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

His hour-long set also included some crowd favorites like "Long Live Cowgirls," "Cowboy Killer," "Solo" and "Horses are Faster," as well as a country-tinged cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

Country legend Tanya Tucker was next to take the stage, with a crowd-pleasing set that celebrated her long career.

"This is my 50th anniversary in the music business," she said. "I just won't go away."

With her long hair dyed in mermaid hues including blue, pink and purple, Tucker wore a black t-shirt bedazzled with the words "Cosa Salvege," which she explained was the name of her new tequila.

She proceeded to hold up a bottle of the liquor and toast the crowd, adding, "I'd like to pass the bottle around to you all if I could."

Her set was equally engaging, with songs from her teenage years like "San Antonio Stroll" — where she and her band mates did an impromptu kick line at the end — interspersed with more recent hits like "Some Kind of Trouble" and "Ridin' Out the Heartache."

On her final song, 1972's "Delta Dawn," she invited the crowd to sing along, and they did.

Riley Green and headliner Luke Bryan rounded out the final day of the festival.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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