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Dylan Arnold of Norfolk, Neb., and Rachel Okane of Maple Grove, Minn., dance and sing to Charlie Worsham in the general admission area of WE Fest Thursday evening in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Biggest WE Fest yet gets rolling

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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. ­– The 32nd annual WE Fest looks to be the biggest and best ever, says CMO John Gourley.

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“The 30th set the bar, but it appears we’ll dramatically exceed that,” he said Thursday, the first day of the three-day country music festival.

 

“We think we’ll be knocking on the door of 50,000,” Gourley said, noting that WE Fest usually draws around 48,000.

The way tickets for next year are already selling, 2015 could be even bigger. Next year’s headliners, country super-couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, were announced earlier this summer and tickets have been flying.

“The sale pace is far beyond anything we’ve ever seen,” Gourley said. “They could not be hotter, with all of Blake’s TV appearances and Miranda’s new album.”

Though it hasn’t been announced when they would play, Gourley said because of each act’s tour, it was unlikely they’d play together.

While organizers have announced other acts during previous WE Fests, Gourley doesn’t think that would happen this year. Instead, he wanted to wait until a handful of acts were signed and make a big announcement.

He did say that organizers have offers into two rock acts for 2015. Past WE Fests have featured Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Ringo Starr.

While this year doesn’t have what Gourley calls “out-of-the-box” acts, he says there’s a sizable pop appeal to Florida Georgia Line. The duo played later on Thursday night.

“When you think about blurring the line between country and pop and appealing to a young audience, Florida Georgia Line is the standard,” he said.

The group returned to WE Fest three years after making its debut with a late-night show on the Barn Stage.

Gourley thought Nashville singer/guitarist Charlie Worsham, who made his festival debut with an early Thursday evening show, could follow Florida Georgia Line’s trajectory.

A small survey of festival-goers showed there was a lot of interest in seeing The Zac Brown Band’s WE Fest debut, closing out the main stage Saturday night. That’s who Jennifer and Candace Clayton were looking forward to seeing.

The twins drove down from Darlingord, Manitoba, for their third WE Fest, largely because of the Zack Brown Band.

“That’s the winner there,” Jennifer said. “They’ll be good.”

Brown was also the draw for Fargoan Elizabeth Ebsen Torguson, though she and her husband, Jay Torguson, were having fun with a scavenger hunt on the WE Fest app.

“It’s been fun. We’ve been exploring,” Jay Torguson said.

Andy Nistler was making his own fun. Dressed as Santa Claus, complete with his own naturally white beard and a red suit, he was posing for pictures and accepting hugs from random strangers.

“We’re having a ball. Three hundred people took their picture with me last year,” he said. “The only act I got to see was Kenny Rogers, but I had a blast.”

Asked who Santa Claus is most looking forward to seeing, Nistler took a swig from a thermos of Miller Lite.

“I don’t care,” he said. “All of the pretty girls.”

IF YOU GO

What: WE Fest

When: Today and Saturday

Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Info: www.wefest.com

Friday’s lineup

2 p.m. – Gates open

2:45 – Maiden Dixie

4:15 – Chris Janson

6:15 – Randy Houser

8:30 – The Band Perry

10:45 – Brad Paisley

12:30 a.m. – Chris Janson (Barn Stage)

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