It is no longer a secret that the Lakes Bluegrass Festival in Pine River will have a new home in 2020.
The Pine River Area Foundation is officially unveiling its plans to move the 15th annual festival north of town to the former Pine River Country Club location after wrapping up this year's event at the Cass County Fairgrounds in Pine River.
“We just need room,” said foundation President Steve Hansen.
The Cass County Fairgrounds has approximately seven usable acres for the festival with 105 electrical campsites. Hansen said those electrical sites were almost all reserved for 2019 before the end of the 2018 festival, and two-thirds of the campsites as a whole were booked by the end of last year's festival as well.
The new location, less than a mile north of the fairgrounds and west of Highway 371, will offer not only more campsites, but larger ones.
“The campsites were really squeezed in to get the number we had,” Hansen said. “They will be half again the size we had at the fairgrounds, so people will have more space.”
The new venue has 24 acres, with space for 200 electrical campsites as well as general camping.
This marks a departure from the 10-year home of the Lakes Bluegrass Festival at the fairgrounds. Before then, the festival operated under different ownership at Mount Ski Gull. The event has simply grown since that time.
While at the fairgrounds, foundation funds and donations built a “clam-shell” stage and installed electrical hookups for trailers. Hansen said the foundation would like to move those to the new location.
“We're going to request the city sever it from the real estate and allow us to move it out there,” Hansen said. “That's our plan.”
The electrical connections were installed with expansion in mind.
“We've been kind of in the long-range planning process for three or more years. This happened to come about. What we knew about the property, we didn't know how we were ever going to buy it. We finally figured out how to get that done. We're now the proud owners and we have to figure out how to develop it," Hansen said.
The new site will not only be home to the Lakes Bluegrass Festival, it will be turned into the Lakes Music and Events Park. Hansen said the space will be available for use for music events, family reunions, church services and any other event that might require lots of space.
“We've talked about a lot of things,” Hansen said. “Someone may choose to put together a jazz festival, or a blues festival. It doesn't have to be musical, but since it has features for that, it helps. It could easily be used for a large church gathering.”
Hansen said the foundation would also like to see an interested group come to the site to host a fall festival.
There's a lot of work to be done to bring the space up to shape. In the years the country club has been closed, grass has grown high, shrubs have gotten out of hand and landscaping in general is in need of work.
“You don't realize it doesn't take more than two to three years before nature starts to take over,” Hansen said. “We're going to have to do some landscaping and shaping and those types of things.”
One thing the fairgrounds has over the new site is the existence of enclosed buildings and the overall visibility from Highway 371. The new location is less visible from the highway.
“It was very visible from the highway in the fairgrounds,” Hansen said. “Obviously it's not going to be seen that way, but we'll put banners reading 'Lakes Bluegrass Festival, this way' and eventually a state highway sign that says 'Lakes Music and Event Park.' That's all part of it.”
On the bright side, trees between the new location and the highway will act as a natural buffer against traffic noise.
The 2020 Lakes Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for Aug. 27-30.