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Vicki Gerdes, Forum Communications Co., Published November 04 2010

WE Fest CEO Krueger retiring

Twenty-seven years ago, partners Jeff Krueger and Terry McCloskey established a new country music festival on the grounds of the Soo Pass Ranch south of Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Though the names and faces behind the production of WE Fest have changed many times in the years since, Krueger’s presence has remained a constant – until now.

Krueger has announced that he is retiring from his position as president and CEO of WE Fest, effective this past Sunday.

“You just get to a point in life where you want to move on and do different things,” Krueger said.

“I loved my job, and I loved WE Fest,” he said. “I created the event, it was my baby.”

Under Krueger’s tenure, WE Fest has grown into a world-renowned music extravaganza that brings roughly 50,000 country music fans to Detroit Lakes every year for three days in August.

Though his resignation became official Monday, Krueger said, “I’ll be around for a while yet, consulting in a limited capacity.

“I’m in my transition to retirement,” he said, noting that he had already begun the process of leaving WE Fest’s day-to-day operations in the capable hands of partner Randy Levy, who has been involved with WE Fest for 25 of its 27 years in existence.

“I won’t be involved with the day-to-day operations or media (relations) or anything that has to do with promoting the event,” Krueger said. “That’s all being handled now by Randy.”

Krueger has no plans to leave Detroit Lakes, however.

“I have a home here, my kids and grandkids are here, and I have no longing to go anywhere else,” he said.

What he will be doing, Krueger added, is working on the development of the nonprofit enterprise that he created in 1998, the Family Needs Fund.

“I’m going to concentrate on that for the next six months,” he said. “Giving back and helping families is important to me.”

Though the Family Needs Fund has been a successful charitable enterprise for many years, Krueger said, “We need to fill the coffers again, to continue helping families.”

To that end, he added, he will be developing more special fundraising events like the Sagebrush Reunion Concert that was held this past summer, reuniting one of the region’s most popular music acts of the 1970s for the first time in 35 years.

Krueger also intends to resume some of the hobbies he has not had time for because of his devotion to WE Fest.

“I’m still in good health, so I’m going to travel and do some of the things I couldn’t when it (WE Fest) occupied so much of my time,” he said. “I’m going to be getting back into my artwork, finish my screenplay, and I have some other projects I’m going to be working on, too.”

But that’s not to say he doesn’t feel a twinge or two of regret.

“There is a bittersweet part of this,” he said. “Of course I’ll miss it. ... But on the other hand, I look forward to the future.”


Vicki Gerdes is a writer for the Detroit Lakes News Tribune