Detroit Lakes residents have always known WE Fest is a big deal - but it's getting to be an even bigger national deal, thanks to a promotional partnership this year between WE Fest executives and Country Music Television, one of the foremost country music media networks.
CMT has its own VIP footprint this year, complete with games and prizes, with one of their radio personalities, Cody Alan, broadcasting live from the festival.
CMT was actually at WE Fest last year, said Mondrivia James, senior manager of event marketing for CMT. They came along with Froggy 99.9 radio out of Fargo, and ran a small karaoke stand.
"We had such a great time out here last year, that Randy Levy came down to Nashville and met with our team, and we made a deal to bring us here this year in a larger presence," James said.
Levy is a co-producer of WE Fest.
Another WE Fest co-producer, Chyrll Sparks, said they've been trying to get CMT to come to the festival for years, so "once they came up last year and saw it, they just loved it."
The deal was a trade-off for promotions - CMT agreed to promote WE Fest on air (radio and television) for most of the summer and sponsor a sweepstakes package, and CMT was able to use WE Fest as part of their "Summer of Music" campaign and promote their programs, like "The Singing Bee," during the festival.
Along with the small version of "The Singing Bee," a competition to know all the words to a song, the CMT tent at WE Fest had a new country songs package for the videogame Rock Band, an entity of Viacom, CMT's parent company.
Winners of each session of "The Singing Bee" won an invitation, plus one, to a meet and greet backstage with Kellie Pickler and Clint Black, Sparks said.
CMT's Radio Live with Cody Alan, which James estimated that it reached 5 million people nationwide, conducted artist interviews and broadcasted his show live from WE Fest on Thursday and Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Central time.
The sweepstakes, promoted on CMT online, flew the winner up to WE Fest, and equipped them with an RV, a VIP camping spot, VIP seats for the concerts, and goodies like a cooler fully stocked with beer for the weekend and T-shirts.
They also held a small sponsorship agreement at the Barn Stage in the concert bowl, showing some CMT programming during the day.
WE Fest was something of a "last hurrah" for CMT's Summer of Music, James said.
They kicked off in June with the CMT Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn., and also attended the Country Stampede in Manhattan, Kan.
"We're excited to be here, and we're looking forward to coming back next year, hopefully with more friends from CMT," James said.
Sparks said she hopes CMT will have a larger presence in years to come.
"They've been really great to work with, and it's a good way for our festival to get national recognition," Sparks said. "It's been a really symbiotic relationship."