Later this summer, eager crowds will pack into the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston for the first annual Root River Fest. Created by the Fillmore County Agriculture Society, the two-day weekend festival is the county’s first full-scale music festival and proceeds will benefit the Fillmore County Fair, including grounds and programs. It is “Founded on the roots of the true river that runs through it.”
Events are slated to kick off Friday, August 11 with the day’s festivities rounding out with an evening performance by long-time area favorite, Troubleshooter. Free and open to the public, the show begins at 6 p.m.
Saturday, August 12, is the fest’s main events and will culminate with evening concerts by two show-stopping performers. The concert will open with a 6 p.m. performance by Diesel Drive and their “fast-paced, hard-rockin’ country sound.” The promising six-member band were all raised in southern Minnesota and are known for their distinctive take on country and energetic shows. The headline show will kick off at 7:30 p.m. with rising star Sundance Head. At 9 p.m., Diesel Drive will be back for a second performance, going into the early morning.
It’s been an astonishing year for Jason “Sundance” Head since his win on Season 11 of the Voice last December. The relatively unknown 39-year-old Texan wowed followers with his soulful renditions of both country and rock music. Now, seven months later, the sky is the limit. Head has a 12-date tour with the top country artist of 2017, Blake Shelton, under his belt, a newly signed contract with an armed forces tour, and anticipation building for a yet to be released single, which will feature a Country Music Hall of Fame female singer. “He’s on the cusp of announcing an album. He’s really making some headway,” notes Doug Lind, treasurer for the Fillmore County Fair Board.
So, how did a rising star find his way to a new festival in Minnesota? One part whim; and one part dogged opportunity. “I’m not one to watch television, but I’d walk through the room and see my wife and kids watching The Voice. Sundance caught my eye a time or two,” recalls Lind. “I googled him and found out his wife was his booking agent and I contacted her on a long shot. I thought, ‘Well, I just wasted 30 seconds of my life.’ I heard back from his wife and they thanked me for my comments and well wishes. I figured I’d wasted another 30 seconds,” jokes Lind.
Then, there was the win on the big stage for Sundance. Notice came to Lind that all booking was being turned over to an agent and that the request for booking information would be passed along. “I thought, ‘Great, one more chance to be turned away.’ At this point though, I still hadn’t talked to a single soul on the board. I filled them in about it and they told me to keep going.” So, he did and an intensive three-month interview process with the booking agent followed, detailing any and all capacities of the site. “They sent a rider. It was 30 pages long,” says Lind. “We needed full stage, sound, and lights.”
Board member Mike Fenske was able to help steer the group with these technical areas and eventually, they stumbled into a man associated with Spectrum Pro Audio in Rochester. “They’ve been very good to us,” says Lind. Later they were aided by Pepper Entertainment out of Souix Falls, S. Dak. The partnership helped put together posters, marketing, online and hard tickets, and more. “Everything needed approval,” recalls Lind. “They were absolutely fantastic.”
With all terms and conditions ready to go, the group signed the contract in mid-April. “We decided, ‘Let’s do this.’ The announcement of the festival went out the last week of May and tickets went on sale June 2. It’s been a whirlwind,” adds Lind.
“The cat was out of the bag earlier,” he says. “I talked with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department and the Preston Police Department. We needed a large gathering license, so I needed to go before the Preston City Council. They asked who was performing.” Lind indicated that no contracts had been signed, but that they were working on having The Voice winner as the headliner. His answer was published in a local article detailing the meeting. Thankfully, everything has fallen into place and the festival is shaping up to be a great benefit not only for the society, but the community as well.
Organizers hope to bring in 1,000 people to the events, but as many as 4,000 would hit the maximum for the grandstand area. General admission is for Saturday’s shows are $25 if purchased locally, sold exclusively at Preston, Harmony, and Rushford Foods stores, or $20, plus fees, online. “We’re hoping people come in for the weekend,” notes Lind. That could equate to plenty of take away for area restaurants, lodging, stores, and other recreational activities.
Camping will be available on site and includes locations for campers, with a limited sites equipped with electrical and water hookup, as well as primitive camping sites. “We’re going to accommodate as many as possible,” says Lind. “We should be able to easily accommodate 150 campsites with amenities.” Camping spots will not be assigned, but designated as campers arrive. A camping pass may be purchased in advance for $100.
Through the drive of the board, it’s apparent they are involved in the community and invested in the fair and beyond. Plenty of fundraisers were held by the society for maintenance and repairs of the grounds in the 160 years it has hosted the fair. This time around, the group is looking for something outside the box that will benefit both the community and the fairgrounds for the future.
“We’re trying to be self-supportive,” adds Lind. “We’ve got a very good board. We’ve talked many times of doing something bigger. On a whim, we took the initiative to dig in and get the ball rolling. The pieces lined up, the board grabbed a hold, and went forward.” While Lind knows that Fillmore County may not have the big city draw of other regional counties, what is put forward is quality. “We’ve been very fortunate and we want to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
“We’re hoping to make this an annual event,” he continues. “We’re set up with a new website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Several of us have spent a considerable amount of time on it. Quite a number of people have stepped up to volunteer. With the scope of the event though, even with the 15 of us on the board, plus spouses, kids, and other volunteers, I don’t think we would have gotten it all done. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a huge risk they’re taking and to get the amount of support we’ve had; it’s been amazing.”
Further details of the weekend are still being finalized. Lind says a variety of food and other concessions will be available on site. Additional activities for Friday and during the day on Saturday are being worked out. Volunteers for the events are still being sought for the festival. “We’re not going to turn anyone away,” laughs Lind. “Numerous local organizations will be a part of it.” Interested persons can contact the Root River Festival at (605) 357-7377 or through their website or Facebook.
The events are sponsored by the Fillmore County Agriculture Society. The fair board is comprised of Aaren Mathison, Kathy Tesmer, Dennis DeVries, Doug Lind, Andy Craig, Kyle Chiglo, Lowell Drinkall, Mike Fenske, Greg Dornink, Karl Housker, Kurt Raaen, Colin Winslow, and Jennifer Pickett. Other sponsors include Preston Harmony Rushford Foods, The Fillmore County Journal, and TownSquare Media Sioux Falls. Several radio stations are also ramping up interest in the weekend events: KWWK Quick Country 96.5, KQYB 98.3, KAUS Country 99.9, KNEI 103.5, KFIL 103.1, KMFX (The Fox) 102.5, KMRV 99.1, and KVIK 104.7 are all sponsors.
More information, including complete fest rules and information are available online at www.rootriverfest.com.