After a one-year absence that was planned before the pandemic — and despite the lingering uncertainty of the pandemic — We Fest will return to Detroit Lakes in 2021, its new operator Live Nation announced Thursday.
No performers have been confirmed yet, but Minnesota's longest-running and often largest country music festival does have set dates, Aug. 5-7. It also has a new co-hosting partner with roots in the area and ties to We Fest's 37-year history.
Matt Mithun, who bought and rebuilt Somerset Amphitheater in 2011, is also now the owner of Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes where We Fest is held. He has signed on as a joint partner in the festival with Live Nation, which bought We Fest in 2019 amid declining attendance.
"With our long history with We Fest, I'm really thrilled to be a part of its relaunch," Mithun said in a statement. "We have the opportunity to build on the successes and find new, innovative ways to engage fans."
Matt's father, Minneapolis advertising executive Ray Mithun Jr., previously owned the 400-acre site and was a longtime We Fest partner under prior management with veteran Twin Cities concert promoter Randy Levy of Rose Presents. Levy's team sold the festival for $21.5 million in 2014 to a national radio and festival company called Townsquare Media.
The concert industry behemoth that also owns Ticketmaster, Live Nation paid half that price for We Fest in 2019, and then it soon announced the festival would take 2020 off to reassess. Rumors swirled that the event might move to a new site, with Matt Mithun's amphitheater in Somerset, Wis. — an hour from the Twin Cities, instead of the three hours to Detroit Lakes — being one possible candidate.
We Fest is staying put, but it will have a lot of ground to cover. Even with coronavirus rates rising again and many summer music festivals still on hold or canceling altogether, Minnesota is looking at a competitive season of outdoor country music bashes next year.
Winstock in Winsted has reconfirmed last summer's lineup with Luke Combs and Darius Rucker for June 18-19. The Twin Cities Summer Jam in Shakopee is also forging ahead with a July 22-24 roster featuring Carrie Underwood, the Zac Brown Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
We Fest's 2021 performers will be announced in the coming weeks along with ticket information. Starting Nov. 30, early access to discounted tickets will be offered to attendees of the 2019 festival, which featured Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Brooks & Dunnall for headliners.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658