By Ryan Gueningsman
DHJ Managing Editor
WINSTED, MN Whether you’re chillin’ on a dirt road with Jason Aldean or taking a back road with Rodney Atkins, all roads this weekend will be leading to the 18th annual Winstock Country Music Festival in Winsted.
Nationally-known country music artists joining Aldean and Atkins at the two-day festival include Friday night’s headliner Darius Rucker, Winstock favorites Montgomery Gentry and The Oak Ridge Boys, along with newcomers Josh Thompson, James Otto, and Gloriana, and emerging artists Troy Olsen, Joanna Smith, and Carter’s Chord.
“I think we definitely scored big on Jason Aldean,” said Winstock Country Music Festival Chairman Dave Danielson. “He’s definitely taken off. His record was number one up until this week when (Brad) Paisley bumped him off, but he’s doing a great job.
“I’m really looking forward to getting Troy (Gentry) and Eddie (Montgomery) back they’re a Winstock favorite. It’s hard not to love those guys when they walk out in the campgrounds,” Danielson added.
Danielson said Friday night’s headliner Rucker, also known as the lead singer of rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, will bring a different type of music and a different show to the stage, and he said he’s looking forward to seeing him.
“He’s going to play some of his Hootie stuff, I’m sure,” Danielson said, adding that Rucker has found great success on the country charts, as well.
Danielson said he’s also excited about the Carter’s Chord sibling trio because of their upbringing, with their parents having been close to first Winstock headliner Waylon Jennings and in his touring band.
“I think we’ve got a great lineup and everybody should have a blast,” Danielson said.
A special celebration taking place at Winstock this year will be helping The Oak Ridge Boys commemorate 30 years of their hit song, “Elvira.”
Marking its third appearance at Winstock, Oak’s bass singer Richard Sterban said he speaks for all of the Oaks in saying the band has “always had a great time there in the past and we’re anticipating more of the same.”
“It’s become one of the great events every year in country music,” Sterban said in a recent phone interview. “We’re looking forward to coming back. We’re going to have a great time on that stage. Based on what we’ve done there in the past, we’re certainly looking forward to it again this year.”
Otto, who said in a phone interview May 23 that he was a “neighbor” to Minnesota for 10 years, having lived in North Dakota, said he also considers himself a “lifelong Vikings fan.”
“I’m looking forward to coming up and rocking Winstock in a couple weeks,” Otto said. “It’s going to be a blast.”
Thompson is also no stranger to the area. Born and raised in neighboring Wisconsin, he doesn’t have to go far to take Winstock “Way Out Here” with his hits and his high-energy stage show.
Rounding out the main stage lineup this year is Gloriana, which is heading up the charts with its recent single, “Wanna Take You Home,” has toured with Taylor Swift, and brings a solid four-part harmony to the show.
Joining Carter’s Chord on the Emerging Artists Stage this year will be Joanna Smith and Troy Olsen, who quite possibly will be following in Montgomery Gentry’s shoes when it comes to Winstock campground visits.
“We can’t wait to get up there and get with the fans, and maybe jump in a golf cart and get out there and get in the campsites, and come hang with the people,” Olsen said in an interview at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park Jan. 19. “We’ll bring a guitar out and sit with everybody we can’t wait.”
Plenty of local talent is also on the bill this year, with RIZE kicking things off Thursday night in the beer tent, local favorite DiamondBack getting things going Friday night, and Hitchville, which will be getting things rolling Saturday afternoon.
Blurred Vision, another local favorite, has been slotted for two performances at this year’s festival Friday night on the Emerging Artists Stage, and Saturday at the annual pre-show beer tent party.
What to watch for at Winstock 2011
In addition to the top-notch lineup in place, Winstock organizers have also been continually making improvements to the festival grounds and camping areas.
Danielson said about 1,000 feet of drainage tile was installed in Campground C, and said there has also been tile placed across the VIP seating area to help with water drainage issues in that area.
“We really thank everybody for putting up with the water last year, but it didn’t seem to stop their fun,” Danielson said. “Hopefully this year we’ll have some nice, sunny weather for them and not have to even use any of the stuff we did to improve it.”
Danielson said new rock walkways have also been added to the main Winstock grounds in the vendor area, to try to keep things drier in the event of a “sprinkle,” he stressed with a laugh.
Late last week, volunteers were spotted preparing the campgrounds and concert area for the show.
“Right now, they’re stringing and labeling every campsite,” Danielson said Thursday night. “I hate this strong wind, but it really does dry things out, so it’s really in our benefit. It makes working out here a little difficult, but we’ll get through it.”
Danielson said, like every year, there are a few low spots in the campgrounds. The rain this spring has also “greened” up the grounds.
“There’s a couple spots we’re going to have to deal with, but the people are very good about working with us, and we try to give them great spots,” Danielson said about the campgrounds.
A new event taking place at Winstock 2011 will be a beanbag tournament Thursday night near the food tent. Visit the Winstock website for more details.
“That should bring a little more excitement for Thursday night to get things started,” Danielson said.
What to know to go
• VIP tickets to this year’s festival are sold out, but a number of reserved seats ($150) will be available at the gate and online at shop.winstockfestival.com.
General admission tickets ($115) and camping passes ($90) are also available at the gates and online. Winstock is a rain-or-shine event.
• Gates to the music area open for admission at 2 p.m. Friday, and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Campgrounds will open for admission Thursday from 3 until 9 p.m., and Friday at 9:30 a.m.
• This year’s campsite decorating contest theme is “Big Green Tractor” after Aldean’s hit song. Plan ahead and be prepared to decorate your campsite according to the “Big Green Tractor” theme. Full rules and details can be found online.
• Proceeds from Winstock are used to help fund private education at Holy Trinity Schools of Winsted.
• The Winsted Fire Department spaghetti dinner will be Thursday, beginning at 5 p.m.
• For full-length artist interviews, more information, and last-minute updates, watch www.winstockfestival.com and also “like” Winstock on Facebook.
“We just continue to try to make it a better event every year,” Danielson said. “We hope they keep coming out and supporting our good cause because it’s all volunteers and it all goes to the school.”