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John Lamb, Published August 02 2013

WE Fest organizers offer bigger, better experiences for fans

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Already one of the largest country music festivals in the country, WE Fest organizers are trying to make it bigger and better for the fans. Those efforts extend beyond the acts onstage.

Or rather, behind the stage itself.

More than 1,000 fans are getting a look and listen at what happens backstage this year. Fans are selected through promotions or just picked from the crowd to get a tour of the backstage area, including the dressing rooms, and sometimes tour buses if that day’s artists are willing.

Often the tour ends with the fans on the main stage between acts.

“These are experiences they’ll be talking about the rest of their lives,” festival Chief Marketing Director John Gourley said this afternoon.

Gourley and other top members of the WE Fest staff attended other events, ranging from the country festival Stagecoach to the rock festival Coachella, both in California, and Bonaroo, in Tennessee, and a golf tournament and car races to see what they offered fans beside the main event.

Also new to WE Fest this year is a permanent secondary stage. The Titan Machinery Barn Stage hosted the festival’s pre-parties earlier this week, as well as the post-main stage concert shows.

Gourley said the new structure is bigger than the main stages of most festival. It allows for more flexibility in programming during WE Fest and the potential to start another separate event, he said.

“The concept is to find one or two other special events that can happen here,” Gourley said. “That is big time on our radar.”

One new feature this year isn’t available to all, but an added amenity available to those with VIP tickets.

The WE Lounge in the VIP area is a private club open to those willing to plunk down $100 on top of their VIP tickets. The tented area with ceiling fans and big-screen TVs allows fans a chance to relax and not miss the acts on the main stage.

The club features table service and offers different drink selections, including bottles of wine or a bottle of Cristal for $333.

Still, the music on the stage is the main attraction. Gourley said tonight’s set by headliner Keith Urban would be the biggest onstage production in festival history.

Not to be outdone, he teased to Saturday’s headliner, Carrie Underwood, particularly her introduction.

“We’re going to make history,” Gourley said. “You don’t want to come late to this show.”

If you go

What: WE Fest

When: Today

Where: So Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Info: General admission single-day tickets are still available for $92.63. Go to www.wefest.com or call (800) 493-3378.

LINEUP

TODAY

2:45 p.m. – Hitchville

4:15 p.m. – Kellie Pickler

6:15 p.m. – Kenny Rogers

8:30 p.m. – Darius Rucker

10:45 p.m. – Carrie Underwood

12:30 a.m. – Hitchville (Barn Stage)

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533