WE Fest has brought neighbor great memories for decades

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — What is billed as the world's largest country music and camping festival is going silent for a summer.

WeFest's new owner Live Nation said Monday, Nov. 4, that the festival will take a break in 2020 and return in 2021 and remain in its home just south of Detroit Lakes for decades to come.

The Detroit Lakes Mayor's office had no comment about the announcement Monday, saying it has had no contact with the new owners throughout the process. Many residents were shocked by the announcement.

But one die-hard WE Fest fan who has lived across the street from Soo Pass Ranch since the festival's beginnings admits a summer off won't be so bad — even if it has been the source of fond memories for more than 30 years.

In 1981, Lynn Anderson bought the "cute and quaint" home on the outskirts of Detroit Lakes she had her eyes since she was a little girl. Two years later, she had 45,000 neighbors for a weekend every August when WeFest moved into Soo Pass Ranch right across the street.


"You just go with the flow," Anderson said, remembering good times, like in 1991 when she went bungee jumping during the festival. "We were younger; we had a lot of fun," she added, laughing.

Next August, Anderson likely won't have any memories with her summer family. Since the festival's beginning, she and her husband have accommodated dozens of campers and cars on their property, making thousands of friends over the years. A little hill in their front yard provides a great view of the jumbotrons.

But for Anderson, the excitement across the street and the money she makes from campers isn't what makes that weekend of early August special.

(I like) seeing everybody, I could care less about who is performing over there," she said.

Live Nation, which arranged to buy the festival from Townsquare Media this year, told Forum News Service Monday that it is taking the year off to get a better handle on the event. It comes after Townsquare made unpopular decisions regarding ticket prices and rules and what was perceived by some locals like Anderson as a lack of a connection to the area.

"That was sad," she said. "(They were) not working with the community (and) that's really important; they were bringing their own people in."

Anderson is confident WeFest will be back, but for now she and her husband, both retired, look forward to a break next summer and might spend an extra weekend with their grandsons.

"I guess we will just go on with life like we do every day," Anderson said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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