Country superstar Brad Paisley performs at last year’s Bi-Mart country festival in Brownsville. Bi-Mart will be hosting a similar event with big names during a 4-day festival near Curry County’s Cape Blanco.
County commissioners Tuesday approved a Mass Gathering permit to allow Bi-Mart to bring big-name country acts to the stage, thousands of music lovers to the coast and money to the community’s cash registers in 2014.
It’s all part of an expansion of Bi-Mart’s Willamette Country Music Festival, which for six years has been held in Brownsville, north of Eugene, and last summer featured artists such as Brad Paisley, Chris Young, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood, among others.
And next summer, the four-day concert extravaganza — Cape Blanco Country Music Festival “The Stars are Bigger on the Coast” — will also be held on ranchland near Cape Blanco north of Sixes. The dates are July 31 and Aug. 1 to 3, 2014.
“We need a win,” said Sheriff John Bishop at a meeting earlier this month to discuss how establishing a renowned music festival gets underway. “This is an opportunity to jump-start a county that really needs it.”
Thirteen top country performers are planned to arrive in the Cape Blanco area next July, although the names have yet to be lined up, said Don Leber, director of advertising and marketing for Bi-Mart.
It’s not just a big hoedown in a cow field, however.
Bi-Mart began the Willamette Country Music Festival as a family-focused camping and music experience in 2007 with a goal to create an event that “finds success through working together and giving back to your communities.”
The discount retailer wanted to expand their music festival, and selected the property near Sixes after consulting with the Anderson family in Brownsville, who have hosted the concert on their ranchland for the past six years. The Andersons suggested their friends Scott McKenzie and Mary and Ron Puhl, who respectively lease ranchland and own cranberry bogs near Cape Blanco.
The site is located 7 miles from the Cape Blanco Airport, so musicians can land in their private planes and drive a short distance to the venue.
“The coast is much more dynamic,” Leber said. “The difference is that it (the Cape Blanco venue) is covering a much bigger footprint and it’s the coast. It’s a destination. We have to figure out how we’re going to portray that.”
Bi-Mart works throughout the year to involve the community, businesses, volunteers and sponsors to help bring the event to fruition and help nonprofits and other organizations in the end.
In Brownsville, the festival helped local fire departments, high school booster clubs and athletic programs raise more than $250,000. Last year, the event garnered $3 million for the city, including $75,000 for the schools and $27,000 for the fire departments that held pancake breakfasts.
“That’s the other exciting part — the give-back to the community,” Leber said, noting that volunteers from various organizations will help with ticket sales, clean-up, ice delivery; chair, tent and fencing set-up; and food and beverage sales.
Another goal is to create a partnership that promotes local business by providing the opportunity for local businesses to be recognized and promoted through the firm’s marketing posters, ads and Web promotions.
Bi-Mart doesn’t so much solicit advertising as it encourages businesses and organizations to sign up to be part of all their advertising in just about every medium available.
Bi-Mart has an audience of 1.4 million members and its promotions — and therefore local business advertising — are seen multiple times throughout the year.
The promotion is done through in-store ads, two ads in the Oregonian and Eugene Register Guard each week; the store’s website and Facebook pages; on OregonLive’s banner ads, the festival website and email blasts.
At the venue, Jumbotrons display messages and logos hundreds of time each day, banners are displayed at kiosks and 15,000 event booklets are distributed at the venue. Also, Bi-Mart trailers travel hundreds of thousands of miles on major freeways each year — through Idaho, Washington, Montana — and billboards in the Portland areas generate more than 1 million impressions a year.
“I really appreciate that Bi-Mart is going to be advertising this event for our area for 52 weeks,” said County Commission Chair David Brock Smith. “Many people who decide to relocate to Curry County do so because they come and visit first. We’ve got the best rivers, clean air, clean fish, an abundance of hiking and biking — it’s just a well-rounded place to live.”
About a week before the first guitar is plucked, volunteers from Bi-Mart and the community will descend on the ranchland and begin mapping out what will become, for four days, the largest “city” in Curry County.
Officials with the CBCMF expect to attract 12,000 to 15,000 music lovers to the inaugural event. As the years pass, attendance will be capped at 20,000, with overnight RV and tent campers limited to 12,000.
In July, the Willamette Valley event drew an estimated 20,000 people to enjoy some of the best country music in the country.
“They predict every hotel room will be filled from Crescent City to Reedsport,” Smith said, adding that shuttle buses will be based at each town’s school districts to get people around the county.
Volunteers will be needed for everything from setting up the venue to taking tickets and directing cars; in turn, groups can receive a portion of funds to raise money for their organizations.
Law enforcement will be provided by the festival’s own security patrols, off-duty police officers from each city in Curry County, and will likely be complemented by a mounted posse of law enforcement from Coos County.
It’s not like they expect much trouble.
The event is geared toward families, with such rules as quiet times at night and no off-road vehicles, ATVs or dune buggies allowed. Showers, toilets, trash pickup and ice will be available, gas-powered camp-cooking is permitted and on-leash dogs are permitted.
“As it grows, it gets smoother; it’s a great time,” said Bill Poppie, creative director of POPP!E Design, which helps the Willamette Country Music Concert in its concert promotions. “The family focus is a really important piece of it.”
What excites Leber is the prospect of bringing top country music performers to the coast and the subsequent return to the community.
“It’s going to be a huge economic impact to the area,” Leber said. “In today’s tough economic times, when nonprofits and schools are strapped, this is a real boost for them.”
“The one thing we do have to offer is the beach,” Bishop said. “How cool would it be to spend a day at the beach, grab a bite to eat and go to a concert?”