WE Fest is one of the biggest, best, and longest-running country music festivals in the US, bringing together the top country music artists in the nation. It all began back in 1983 and for over 35 years, WE Fest has been attracting thousands of fans each summer for a multi-day, outdoor music and camping experience hosted in the beautiful countryside of Minnesota.
Located at Soo Pass Ranch on the edge of Lake Sallie, the concert “bowl” at WE Fest is surrounded by woods and meadows, but today it has been fully developed with modern facilities like high-tech stages and speakers, city water, and over 50 permanent concession stands. The natural theater holds 50,000 attendees along with 7,000 reserved seats and 10 campgrounds with over 9,000 campsites. Before the festival began, the area was a working dude ranch packed with miles of trails and even rodeos! Pretty much the perfect spot for a country music festival…
With over 20 artists set to perform on their stages each year, WE Fest is the largest country music festival in the US. Here’s a quick look at WE Fest lineups throughout history!
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Headliners from Back in the Day…
At the first ever WE Fest in 1983, Alabama was the headliner and biggest draw for country music fans. Nine thousand folks turned up with their tickets and folding lawn chairs in hand, racing through the entrance to find a good spot… because the whole place was general admission! (Seriously, you can watch a black-and-white video of it here.) The stage was basically a barn at the time and many fans didn’t even believe Alabama would actually show up because they were so famous and WE Fest was so new. But Alabama liked the atmosphere so much they returned to play two more WE Fests and even came out of retirement in 2012 for another!
That first WE Fest lineup also featured the likes of country music legends like Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Tom T Hall, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Since then, the festival has seen big names like Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, Conway Twitty, John Denver, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, Ronnie Milsap, Roger Miller, The Judds, and Emmylou Harris. In 1990, Dolly Parton came out to headline the show, and then it became country stars like like Reba McIntyre and Kenny Rogers. Willie Nelson once showed up for WE Fest and played a four-hour, over-the-top set in front of thousands of fans.
Soon the festival producers built a second stage so that two bands could play at once. In 2003, Tim McGraw signed on as a headliner, which attracted other stars like WE Fest favorite George Strait and newcomer Kenny Chesney. WE Fest also brought in the likes of Sawyer Brown and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – they were known to mingle, eat, and drink with the folks sitting in the VIP section. Brad Paisley has also repeatedly performed at the festival.
Three years ago, WE Fest built another stage – one of the biggest in the country with even more lights, speakers, and video walls so that they could change shows and bands in 20 minutes to allow for more music and less waiting time.
We Fest 2015 lineup
Looking back just a few years, you start to see a blend of the top country artists and newcomers taking the stage at WE Fest. Lots of bands known for their multiple radio hits turned out for the 2015 festival, including headlining spouses (at the time) Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. Here’s how the three nights of that festival weekend broke down:
Big & Rich
Hank Williams, Jr. and the Flatts
Rascal Flatts – Headliner
Randy Rogers Band
Miranda Lambert – Headliner
Eli Young Band
Blake Shelton – Headliner
We Fest 2016 Lineup
The headliners got even bigger in 2016, with superstars like Kid Rock, Eric Church, and Tim McGraw taking the stage. McGraw is a returning WE Fest alum and he brought the house down at this one. It’s no wonder over 150,000 people attended in 2016.
Other performers included Steven Tyler and the Loving Mary Band, Billy Currington, Gary Allan, Lee Brice, Joe Nichols, Montgomery Gentry, Granger Smith, LOCASH, and lesser known artists like Amanda Watkins, William Michael Morgan, Hardwood Groove, Jeremiah James Korfe, Halfway to Hazard, Blind Joe, and High Valley.
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"I'm gonna live like tomorrow never comes // There's no end in sight, tonight we black out the sun…" If you're in need of some #solareclipse playlist worthy tunes today, look no further than 2017 #WEFest headliner @zacbrownband's "Tomorrow Never Comes." 📷: @phiercephoto 🌑
We Fest 2017 Lineup
The crowd-pleasers this year included Luke Bryan, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Brett Eldredge, Randy Houser, Eli Young Band, Kelsea Ballerini as well as up-and-coming artists like Cody Johnson, Kane Brown, Brett Young, Michael Ray, Logan Brill, and RaeLynn, not to mention a ton of other country artists that were scheduled to play at the pre-party!
We Fest 2018 Lineup
With superstars like Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, and Jason Aldean taking the headliner spots here, it’s no wonder 2018 was huge for WE Fest – it was nominated for Festival of the Year by the Academy of Country Music! And man do these guys have some real sing-along hits…
Dan + Shay
Carrie Underwood – Headliner
Florida Georgia Line – Headliner
The Cadillac Three
Jason Aldean – Headliner
This year’s lineup?
Well, we’ll be writing more about that later. Stay tuned for more festival details, updates, and survival tips… as well as a full festival lineup for 2019!
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