There are still a few general admission tickets left for this coming weekend’s 33rd annual WE Fest — but not many.
“As of today, we still have a few general admission tickets available — but (the supply) is very limited,” said WE Fest Marketing Director John Gourley on Thursday. “And we still have one campground — Hilltop — that has a few camping spots.”
But with each passing day, that limited number of tickets dwindles, and by the time the festival officially opens this coming Thursday, Aug. 6, it will most likely be sold out. All VIP box seats and reserved seats are already long gone.
So those who are still hoping to obtain one of those three-day, $99 music passes to see chart toppers like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Hank Williams Jr., Big & Rich, and more, should probably visit the website atwww.wefest.com today, or call the ticket office at 800-493-3378 first thing Monday morning (the ticket office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
But for those who miss the boat this year, seats for WE Fest 2016 are already on sale — and they’re going fast.
“Without having announced any of our headliners (for 2016), we’re already selling faster than any other WE Fest in history,” Gourley said.
And there is even more incentive to buy early: Ticket prices for 2016 are set for a price increase at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7. Buying early also guarantees ticket holders a place in the first seating pool, ensuring them the best seats possible, Gourley said.
At least one of the 2016 headliners will be announced at this weekend’s festival, during the 10 p.m. break between shows on Friday, he added.
For those who already have their music and/or camping tickets for this coming weekend, there haven’t been any major changes at the Soo Pass Ranch since last year, but there have been plenty of little ones.
“We’ve concentrated this year on the physical plan for the site — all the little things that make it appear nicer and function better,” Gourley said.
“We’ve added more portable showers in the campgrounds, and we’ve done even more dust control in the high traffic areas,” he added. “We’ve done some paving and striping on our roads, and we’ve really expanded our signage program.”
WE Fest newcomers will find it easier to navigate between the different campgrounds, concert bowl and ranch house than ever before, Gourley noted — and for those who come with their smartphone, it will be virtually impossible to get lost.
“We just rolled out a brand new app that basically acts as a digital tour guide to WE Fest — the whole festival experience,” he said.
Gourley noted that one of the strengths of Townsquare Media, which acquired WE Fest late last year, is its digital technology.
“Townsquare is very sophisticated in the digital world,” he said.
To make the whole app more functional, Gourley explained, tiny little diamond-shaped broadcasters known as beacons have been disseminated throughout the entire WE Fest site.
Those little beacons transmit data to the app that will alert concert-goers of various food and drink specials as they pass by that particular booth, where they can find showers or restrooms, shopping deals, etc.
“So when you walk by a beverage booth, if there’s a special a little message pops up on your mobile,” he said. “Or if you’re searching for nearby showers on your app, (your phone) will beep at you to let you know when you’ve arrived.”
The app also has a “drop pin” function that will let the app user tag their campsite, or where they parked, so they can find it later — or pass the information on to friends who might be meeting them there, Gourley said.
The drop pin function can also be used for meeting friends at a particular food, beverage or shopping booth, at the ranch house, or at the Barn Stage or concert bowl seats.
“You can share the information with your friends on where you want to meet, and the message gets to them via text,” said Gourley. “It’s the next level of sophistication for the festival’s whole digital experience.”
The app can also help festival goers plan their daily schedule, whether it’s to send them reminders of when a certain act is set to take the stage, where a particular vendor is located, or where and when to meet for lunch or dinner.
“What’s unique about WE Fest (in comparison to other music events) is that you can plan something different each day for your festival experience,” Gourley said. “There are so many different things to see and do.”
And of course, VIP campers enjoy a few more “perks” than the average WE Fest attendee, such as the backstage hospitality area that offers specially catered meals as well as the exclusive WE Club Lounge.
The WE Club Lounge, which opened in 2013, is a members only area where card-carrying VIPs and their guests can enjoy top-shelf beverages, gourmet food, personalized service and live entertainment from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., featuring a variety of popular local performers as well as the occasional surprise guest band from among the festival’s main acts.
“We have a limited number of WE Club passes still available for VIP ticket holders,” Gourley said. “More surprise artists than ever will be popping up there this year, whether it’s to perform a song or two, sign autographs or just hang out with the guests.
“And there will be at least one surprise appearance by one of the bands in the general admission area,” he added. “Over time, one of our longer range plans is to do some additional (special events) in general admission to enhance that GA experience — things such as merchandise giveaways and special band appearances. both for meet and greets and to perform songs.”
WE Fest’s Walk of Fame is also getting an upgrade this year, to appeal to social media fans.
“In the Walk of Fame area, we’re adding a place where you can ‘Leave Your Name on the Walk of Fame’ — it’s a selfie spot,” Gourley said.
There will be a giant chalk board set up where guests can write their name — and decorate it in a variety of colors — then snap a selfie photo in front of it.
“They did something like it at the ACMs (Academy of Country Music Awards) this year, and it was massively popular in social media,” said Gourley. “We borrowed their idea and supersized it.”
But of course, the main attraction at WE Fest will always be the music — and “there’s an interesting mix of talent this year,” Gourley said. “We have the superstars, Blake, Miranda and Rascal Flatts, and the next generation of stars, like Jake Owen and Dierks Bentley — and I think Tyler Farr, Eric Paslay and the Eli Young Band could easily be headliners a year or two from now.
“We’ve gotten lucky over the years in terms of picking the next batch of headliners.”
And then there’s the returning fan favorites like Big & Rich, Colt Ford — and one legendary entertainer who is making his first WE Fest appearance in 20 years.
“We’ve been trying to get Hank (Williams) Jr. back here forever,” said Gourley. “The last year he was at WE Fest was 1985 — and he absolutely brought the house down.”
In short, there’s something at WE Fest to appeal to every generation of country fans.
“That’s another thing that’s unique about this show,” Gourley said. “People come here with their entire family — three and four generations of them. So you need that blend of talent to appeal to everyone.”
WE Fest is also inviting the Detroit Lakes community at large to come join WE Fest campers at two separate “early bird” kickoff parties, set for both Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ranch House Saloon.
On both days, the saloon will open its doors at 6:30 p.m., with live music getting underway at 7 p.m. and continuing until approximately 2 a.m.
There will be an open cash bar and performances by Tim Eggebraaten, Redline, the Shane Martin Band and Jeremiah James Koree (all set for Tuesday); as well as a second show by the Shane Martin Band, Jackson Michelson and Maiden Dixie (the Wednesday lineup).
“It’s all free and open to the public,” Gourley said. “It’s for the campers, but also for the whole community, as a thank you.”
For more information, including performance times for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as updates on next year’s show, please visitwww.wefest.com.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.