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Winstock in 15th year, rumble Friday, April 18

April 7, 2008

By Ryan Gueningsman

Staff Writer

Has it really been 15 years?

Fifteen years since Tom Ollig and Dick Langenfeld of Winsted came up with the idea of having a country music festival in our backyards.

Fifteen years since it seemed there was more law enforcement than attendees at the first ever Winstock Country Music Festival.

Organizers have watched the festival grow from a few hundred concert-goers to almost 15,000 now. For one weekend a year, Winstock gives Winsted the chance to multiply its population of about 2,350 residents to many times that number.

Ollig said he personally is extremely proud of Winstock and what it has become, and he thinks of his involvement with the festival from day one as “a labor of love.”

“The people and the support it’s been able to give Holy Trinity Schools and the fans that attend – we have a loyal following that’s there every year, and it’s amazing how many people you meet, and tell them you’re from Winsted, and they’ll go, “Oh, yeah, Winstock,’” Ollig said.

Along with the influx of people who head to Winsted come the countless country music stars. Over the years, Winstock organizers have brought George “No Show (yes, he showed up at Winstock)” Jones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, and Keith Urban to Winsted, just to name a few.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd was probably one of the most unique artists we’ve had at our event,” Winstock Festival Chairman Dave Danielson said. “They brought a totally different crowd to the event, but was fun. Everyone had great time.”

With 33 number one hits, 15 American Music Awards, 12 Academy of Country Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards, and two Grammys under her belt, organizers are excited about bringing headliner Reba McEntire to Winsted for her first appearance at Winstock 2008 Saturday, June 14.

Also confirmed to close out the show Friday night, June 13, is country music powerhouse Montgomery Gentry. This will be Montgomery Gentry’s third performance at Winstock, and Danielson remembers the last time they were here the duo made its way out to the campground and was hanging out and visiting with people.

A top-notch lineup fills in the time slots of the main stage prior to the two closing acts, including Sawyer Brown, Craig Morgan, Kellie Pickler, Emerson Drive, Keith Anderson, and Bomshel. Local talent booked include group favorite DiamondBack and Rochester-area favorite Ten Cent Biscuit featuring Lisa Bailey.

Since the establishment of its Emerging Artists Stage in 2005, Winstock has been able to showcase Nashville’s hottest talent as they are just getting started. Sugarland and Little Big Town have both performed on that stage – Sugarland in 2005 and Little Big Town in 2006 – and now both are headlining their own shows and tours.

In 2008, one of the biggest bands to break out of Nashville’s floodgates so far this year – Lady Antebellum – will be bringing its stuff to Winsted, hitting the Emerging Artists Stage Saturday, June 14 at 4:05 p.m. and 8:05 p.m. Their debut album is also set to be in stores Tuesday, April 15, and features their hit “Love Don’t Live Here.”

Other national artists also appearing in 2008 on the Emerging Artists Stage include Emily West, who is doing well on the charts with “Rocks in My Shoes,” and The Lost Trailers, who made their Winstock debut in 2006, and will be bringing their new hit “Holler Back” to Winsted. Locally, the Emerging Artists Stage will also feature Winsted native Lauren Eggert’s band The Dixie Hicks.

“The Emerging Artist Stage was an idea that our booking agent had,” Danielson said. “It’s been very successful. We had Sugarland booked so early for the Emerging Artists Stage, and they just took off and easily could have played on the big stage. For the most part, they’re all doing real well and succeeding. We’ve had some super results from that.”

Overall, Danielson said all of the artists who have appeared at Winstock have been good to deal with. He said from time to time, a road manager can be difficult, but he said Winstock tries to show everyone the best time possible.

“One thing entertainers always comment on are the homecooked meals they get,” Danielson said. “We have a group of ladies who make homemade soups for them, and they (entertainers and crews) just really love it.”

For Ollig, he has one performer in particular he wants to sit down and watch – if he ever gets the chance to between his committee duties – and that is Phil Vassar.

“His songs tell stories,” Ollig said. “That’s why I’ve always liked him.”

Ollig said it’s hard for Winstock to book entertainers who are on the top, but said the festival has had good luck at booking entertainers on their way to the top or way down from the top throughout the years.

Danielson said some years stick our for various reasons more than others, and said those that do include the years with mud, Mini Biff incidents, and bad weather.

He said one year in the early history of the festival when it still took place at the Winsted Airport, it had rained, and crews couldn’t get across the airport runway to service the Mini Biffs that were on the other side.

“People were still trying to use them and they were overflowing,” Danielson recalled.

Another night that sticks out in anyone’s mind who has been a part of Winstock is the night the stage roof was blown by a strong wind into the VIP seating area.

“That was a very long night,” Danielson said. “We knew there was a storm coming in, so the stage crew went and tied it down so it could take a good hit from the southwest, which appeared how it was going, but it turned around, came from the east, and threw the roof into the VIP seating section. Thank goodness nobody was sitting there, and that nobody got hurt – that was the good news.”

As soon as the storm had passed, organizers scrambled to rebuild the stage and prepare it so it’d be ready for the first performance that Friday afternoon.

“It’s amazing what people can do when they all work together,” Danielson said. “The stage manager commented that if this was not a volunteer organization, it never would have happened – volunteers made it possible.”

Knowing that the event is run by volunteers, and that the proceeds from the festival benefit local education, Danielson said artists enjoy being a part of Winstock.

“The feedback that we get from managers and agents is that everybody wants to go to Winstock because we do take care of them so well and treat them like family – they feel good about being there.”

He said having the proceeds benefit educating students sometimes is an additional benefit when it comes to promotional aspects. Typically, Reba McEntire’s management does not allow her logo to be used on souvenirs other than their own, but being this event benefits education, she’s allowing her name to be used on t-shirts and mugs that will be sold at Winstock.

Looking ahead for Winstock 2008 – which will be here in less than two months – Danielson said Winstock fans will notice a different set-up for the food Winstock offers.

“We’re going to do a food court – put all the food in one area to make it more appealing to the audience,” Danielson said. “It’ll be a one-stop shop.”

He said he is also pleased about several new sponsors who will bring some excitement to the event this year. The reserved seating section, which was added to the festival, also seems to be taking off well this year.

Danielson also said the Thursday night of Winstock is getting bigger and bigger each year with the Winsted Fire Department’s annual spaghetti dinner along with live music, but he said organizers don’t have any plans of turning it into a full-force three-day festival.

“The feedback we get from the audience is that they like the two days,” Danielson said. “Plus, with volunteers, it’d get tough going three days.”

The fifteenth annual Winstock Country Music Festival will take place at the festival grounds, located in Winsted on McLeod County Road 5, Friday and Saturday, June 13-14.

The earlybird deadline to order tickets for the festival at a reduced price is Tuesday, April 15. Tickets may be purchased online at www.winstockfestival.com or locally at Keg’s Bar, The Blue Note, Keaveny Drug, and Glenn’s SuperValu.

Before the deadline, general admission tickets cost $75. From Wednesday, April 16 through Monday, June 2, they cost $85, and from June 2 until at the event they cost $95.

For complete schedule details, other ticket options, photos, features, and up-to-date Winstock news, visit the redesigned Winstock web site at www.winstockfestival.com

A new online moderated Winstock Forum is also in the works, and will allow fans the opportunity to discuss favorite artists and performances, memories, and anything else Winstock – watch the web site to join the online Winstock community in the near future.

Pre-Winstock Rumble at Blue Note Ballroom Friday, April 18

The annual pre-Winstock rumble at the Blue Note Ballroom will take place Friday, April 18 and feature live music by DiamondBack and KeyStone featuring Brittany Lee. Music begins at 8 p.m.

Muss from the K102 Wakeup Crew will be at the event, giving away Winstock tickets, CDs, and other prizes.

For more information, visit www.winstockfestival.com.