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Country Festival Planning for 2014

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BROWNSVILLE, Ore. — Country music fans are getting ready to pack their camping gear and head home after a three-day music festival, but many of them are already making plans for the event next year. As are the organizers.

The Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival has announced the 2014 lineup: Gary Allan, Eric Church, and Blake Shelton. As soon as fans heard who was coming to Brownsville next summer, they started lining up to buy their tickets for next year.

“It’s been crazy,” said Anne Hankins, President of Willamette Country Music LLC. “The renewal line has been going all day long, so nonstop.”

Organizers say they have been working for six months already planning for 2014’s event.

“I mean, you’ve got three outrageous headliners,” Hankins said.  “So of course, I expect to sell out early.”

Country music fans say they already can’t wait to come back next year.

“We love country because they all tell stories and we can all relate, and we’re from the country,” said Dawn Myrick of Roseburg.

Next year will bring more big names to Oregon, but the festival will see other changes as well, including a second stage.

“We’ll make it so the fan can experience going to one then the other, so there are multiple things for them to be doing.” Hankins said. “We’ll probably put it out more where the fireman’s breakfast is, which is very successful, and make it more of a kids stage and a secondary stage so people can travel and have the whole experience from one end of the venue to the other.”

This year marks the sixth year of the Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival, an event that has grown from a few hundred people to this year’s sold out crowd of 15,000 attendees.

“As we’ve gotten bigger, our volunteer base has gotten bigger as well, so there’s more of a chance for them to be involved,” said Don Leber, Director of Advertising for Bi-Mart. “They have the chance to make more money for their nonprofits or schools. So as it grows, we’ve been able to do more and give back to the community.”

At the end of the day, organizers say the event is all about giving back. The festival is paying Central Linn and Thurston High Schools for the work their volunteers are doing – such as selling drinks, cleaning, and delivering ice. The Brownsville Fire Department is also fundraising.

“My motivation is that this is such a great vehicle for tons of other things that we get to do,” Hankins said. “I mean the kids that are out here working, combined, they’re going to raise 75-80,000 dollars for their schools.”

Eight-hundred volunteers are raising money, and organizers say that number will likely increase as the event grows.

“By in large, we’re getting there,” Leber said. “We keep trying to improve, so we just ask people to be patient with us. We do this one time a year and each year we try to make it bigger and better.”

Country star Darius Rucker takes the stage Sunday night at 8 pm for the last show. KEZI 9 News anchors Matt Templeman and Renee McCullough will be introducing him.

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