By John Lamb
As WE Fest gets going today, organizers are already preparing for next year's festival.
Here's a look at WE Fest information, with a story following: If you go
What: WE Fest, today - Saturday
When: Gates open at 2 today
Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes
Info: Tickets are still available at the gates from $70 for single-day tickets to $650 for three-day VIP box seats. (800) 493-3378
2:45 - Silverado
4:15 - 32 Below
6:15 Sawyer Brown
8:30 - Trace Adkins
10:45 - Toby Keith
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - The music hasn't even started for this year's WE Fest, but organizers are already drumming up interest next summer's country lineup.
Tickets go on sale for the 2010 festival at 2 today on the WE Fest grounds, with two headliners announced.
Chyrll Sparks, co-producer of the festival, confirmed that Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban will headline what's billed as "Let's go again in 2010." Tickets will range from $75 for a three-day music only general admission pass to $1,000 for a three-day VIP Gold Circle seat.
After sales end Saturday, tickets will go back on sale after the complete lineup is announced, likely in October, Sparks said.
She said the festival has "a lot of irons in the fire" for other acts to round out the schedule and added talent buyers are still thinking outside the box to bring in someone who could rock the country boat a bit, like last year's inclusion of Sheryl Crow or the booking of Ray Charles years ago.
'Ideally, we wanted to have The Eagles here this year," Sparks said backstage Wednesday afternoon as workers put the finishing touches around the grounds. Instead, the classic country rockers played the Fargodome in March.
Still, she's pumped about Urban returning.
"He's fabulous in the headlining spot," she said of the singer/guitarist. "He's the future of country music. He's an adept instrumentalist. I don't know how long you can last just singing."
Likewise, she's thrilled about Chesney returning after headlining most recently in 2008.
"He's the Elvis of our time," she said. "People love him and always come out to see him."
This year she's excited to hear the roots stylings of Joey + Rory Friday afternoon and predicts people will be hearing more from the husband and wife duo.
Next year's tickets aren't the only early deals that had those working with the festival excited.
Becker County Sherriff Tim Gordon credited early camping, with grounds opening up at noon on Tuesday, for relatively few traffic hassles.
"The early opening helped," he said Wednesday from a staging site on the festival grounds. He said there was some congestion right around noon on Tuesday when gates opened, but that within an hour things were running smoothly. He said the Sherriff's department will have 29 part-time licensed officers working traffic detail and 19 sworn officers working overtime throughout the weekend. Those extra hours will be reimbursed by WE Fest.
Sparks estimated that half of the 30,000 expected campers arrived early. She said a total of 43,000 music tickets had been sold before Wednesday and that the festival could reach its capacity of 46,000.
Of those taking advantage of the early camping were husband and wife Jeremy and Missy Pape, of Motley, Minn.
"It was easy," said Jeremy, adding he only waited for a few campers to get in ahead of him.
While Missy carried a couple of beers from their campground, he was carrying a pair of 2x6 pieces of wood on his way to help stabilize a friend's camper Wednesday afternoon. But what he was really looking forward to were tonight's headliners, Toby Keith and Trace Adkins.
"They should've been Saturday night to close it out," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533. Follow his updates from the festival through his Twitter account, Lambwiches, or through his blog on www.areavoices.com