CADOTT — Amber Callaway attended her first Country Fest this summer, but the 19-year-old college student from Holmen was no stranger to the musical festival grounds north of Cadott.
Her parents, Jeff and Donah, attended sister festival Rock Fest for 21 years, and each year Callaway would tag along when her dad would drop off their gear at their campsite.
“My dad was floored with the way we packed,” Callaway said Sunday, the last day of this year’s four-day Country Fest. “With him, packing for Rock Fest was a process. I swear we just threw (stuff) in the car” — including the tent her parents used most years.
Jill Brenner, director of marketing and sponsorship for Chippewa Valley Music Festivals, which puts on Country Fest and Rock Fest, wasn’t surprised to hear another generation of Callaways was heading to one of the annual events.
Both fests draw families, friends and neighbors each year, along with a bunch of newcomers, Brenner said Sunday from the festival grounds.
Neither Amber Callaway nor her friend Tayler Guccione, 19, of Osceola, had much of a voice by Sunday — partly the result of singing along with the big-name entertainers on the main stage, including Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban.
Both were looking forward to Sunday's performers, including Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett and Toby Keith.
“I think it's going to be a party,” said Guccione, who already was thinking about returning for Country Fest's 30th anniversary in 2016.
Country Fest already has announced two acts for next year — Dierks Bentley and Sam Hunt — and fans should look for much more to celebrate the event’s 30 anniversary, Brenner said.
John Gargaro, 19, and Josh McCauley, 19, both of Onalaska, plan to return in 2016. The pair were drawn to Country Fest two years ago after hearing good things about the annual event.
“It's proven to be the best weekend of the year,” Gargaro said.
“You don't get many opportunities to drive an hour and a half and see these kind of acts,” he said.
He and Gargaro both loved Keith Urban's performance Saturday night, from the musician's guitar playing to his interacting with the crowd.
“He brought people up on stage,” McCauley said. “That was pretty cool.”
Hours before Keith was to take the stage, Brenner said she was still hearing fans raving about Urban. “I think we could have Keith Urban out here every year,” she said. “He’s a fan’s entertainer.”
She and organizers also were hearing a lot about the performances of Lee Brice and Brett Eldredge, said Brenner, noting Eldredge even ventured out into the campground with a videographer to punk fans.
Those attending Country Fest enjoyed good weather for the most part — something Logan Lasack, 19, of Onalaska was grateful for.
He and Kendra Nedegaard, 20, also of Onalaska, arrived Wednesday night in search of a little fun and good music.
“The whole lineup has been good,” said Lasack, attending his second Country Fest.
Nedegaard, attending her third, agreed. “I'm excited every day,” she said.
For Nedegaard, the annual event also is a chance to hang out with family, including her brother, Nate, whose campsite included a number of games, and her grandparents, who attend ever year.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk was at the festival for parts of Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“It's been pretty quiet this year,” he said of law enforcement's activities. “There were a few fights, a couple of domestics and a lot of underage drinking.”
In addition, a male also ended up with a stab wound to his thigh, said Kowalczyk, noting alcohol was involved. “It was more foolishness than intent.” No arrests were made.
The chief deputy and a captain from Walworth County sheriff's office came to the Country Fest grounds Saturday to see how the campground ran and everything associated with it because of an event there where camping is being considered.
“They were very impressed with how our operation ran, Kowalczyk said, chuckling as he added, “It should run pretty well after 29 years.”
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