Summers are meant to be carefree and filled with music, and as the season swings into full force, country fans everywhere are making their plans to attend some of the best music festivals in the country. From Cheyenne to St. Clairsville, Detroit Lakes to Twin Lakes, this year’s fairs and festivals promise to be chock full of the biggest in country music entertainment. So, grab your sunscreen and maps, fill up the gas tank and get ready for a summer full of great tunes! Here is a sampling of what’s out there.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
The Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration has become one of the country’s premiere celebrations of the West. First held in 1897 as a “bucking and pitching” bullriding event, the “Daddy of ’em all” (coined in 1919 after Cheyenne had gained worldwide acclaim for having the biggest and best rodeo) has lived up to its reputation.
Today, the 102-year-old festival has come a long way from those early efforts. Aside from rodeo competitions, this year’s nine-day celebration is full of activities, including a world-class art show and sale, a renowned museum that showcases Frontier Days and the American West, spectacular air shows by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and Native American art and cultural displays. Other activities include free pancake breakfasts, a grand parade featuring one of the world’s largest collections of horse-drawn vehicles, and, of course, top-flight concerts from country’s biggest names. After a several year absence, chariot racing will return to this year’s Frontier Days.
For rodeo fans, more than 1,200 contestants will compete in various rodeo events for a purse of over $500,000, the third largest purse in professional rodeo. Over 40 bulls and 70 broncos will try to throw rodeo’s best cowboys!
From the early years, Frontier Days has drawn famous personalities to take in the action. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show performed here in 1898, Kodak’s George Eastman has participated, and Theodore Roosevelt was present for the 1903 event. Today, famous folks are still showing up, ready to entertain the evening crowds under the stars. The 1999 lineup includes Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Jo Dee Messina, BlackHawk, Lorrie Morgan, Chris LeDoux and more.
Tickets are available online, by telephone and at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Ticket Office. There is also a comprehensive Web site featuring photos, historical and current event information and an online merchandise store.
For tickets and information:
• 307-778-7222 (In Cheyenne)
• 800-227-6336 (Outside Cheyenne)
Jamboree in the Hills
St. Clairsville, Ohio
Johnny Cash called his first appearance there “the greatest moment of my life.” The now-famous Jamboree in the Hills is held across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia, in St. Clairsville, Ohio. The Jamboree is a by-product of Jamboree USA, WWVA radio’s historic and ongoing live music program that has aired, except for a time during WWII, every Saturday night since 1933. The show is the second oldest country music radio program in the United States, behind only the Grand Ole Opry itself.
Since its beginning in July 1977, when more than 25,000 made their way to the event to see Merle Haggard, Earnest Tubb, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash and The Carter Family, the Jamboree has grown to a four-day celebration hosting more than 200,000 enthusiastic country music fans. Often called “The Super Bowl of Country Music,” Jamboree in the Hills was named the Standing Room Only Festival/Special Event of the Year in 1992 and 1996 by the Country Music Association. Today, the festival has expanded to include a bull riding rodeo, a classic car show and an amateur country music talent show.
Country’s top stars are again scheduled to perform at this year’s festival. Twenty-two acts will take the stage including Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Jo Dee Messina, Neal McCoy, Wade Hayes, Marty Stuart, Steve Wariner, Terri Clark, Joe Diffie and others. Tickets are available online or by phone.
For tickets and information:
• 304-234-0050 (Within West Virginia)
• 800-624-5456 (Outside West Virginia)
Country Thunder USA
Twin Lakes, Wisc.
This festival was voted “The 1997 Country Music Event of the Year” by the Country Music Association, so this event is big time. This year they will present over 40 acts on four stages. Performers include crowd pleasers Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Deana Carter, The Wilkinsons, Chris LeDoux and John Michael Montgomery along with newcomers Claudia Church, Montgomery Gentry and Danni Leigh, among others.
A range of seating choices is available, from festival style all the way up to VIP box seating. In addition, over 150 arts and crafts dealers will ply their wares while attendees sample over 100 different food items at the 17 plus restaurants on site. Camping is available with over 4,000 campsites to choose from. They also feature an area called Country Kidsville designed strictly for the younger music fans. If that’s not enough, they stage a nightly Hot Air Balloon Glow as well as a charity auction.
For tickets and information:
• (414) 279-6960
August 6, 7, & 8
Soo Pass Ranch
Detroit Lakes, Minn.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune says about this one, “There’s nothing quite like it. Call it Woodstock with a twang. Call it The Grand Ole Opry times a thousand, times 10,000.”
That’s a strong endorsement for this mega-event, now in its 17th year. The site features an enormous stage where this year’s guests will include Lonestar, Bryan White, Collin Raye, Wynonna, Brooks & Dunn, Alabama, The Kinleys, Sawyer Brown, Dwight Yoakam and Jo Dee Messina, to name only a few. Also this year, the concert producers promise two huge Jumbotron screens to beam the onstage action to the crowd. Three seating choices are available, including VIP box seats.
Camping is part of the fun and this event has 10 different campgrounds to choose from, with certain areas designated as family campgrounds. For added convenience and comfort, the WE Fest folks are now boasting that the concert arena itself has been modernized with 240 permanent flush toilets in place. That’s a plus! Organizers have also added a Walk of Fame and an autograph booth where fans will be able to meet the stars.
Michael Killen contributed to this story.