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Country music festival booming

Alan Jackson was the headliner at Sunfest last year. - Andrew Leong/file
Alan Jackson was the headliner at Sunfest last year.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

B.C.’s biggest country-music festival dawns again on Cowichan tomorrow as SunFest organizers welcome some 30,000 fans and entertainers.

Spokeswoman Charlotte Fisher sounded calm while ironing out details for the valley’s 14th-annual hoedown, headlined this year by superstar Tim McGraw, plus Dean Brody, Jake Owen, Cassadee Pope, Kira Isabella, George Canyon, Aaron Pritchett, and Blackjack Billy.

Fisher was amped about SunFest’s saddlebag of local, provincial and international talent bound for the sprawling Cowichan Exhibition grounds.

That’s where new camp-shower trailers ($5); shuttles (from Island Savings Centre and Fuller Lake Arena, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday to Sunday) and buses (Wilson’s, from Nanaimo and Victoria); various vendors; redesigned on- and off-site parking and traffic routes; a fenced beverage garden; an arts, crafts and games Kids Zone; Farmer’s Market building in Mellor Hall; contests and much more await cowpokes from many countries.

“We have people coming from Perth and the state of Victoria, Australia; the U.K.; Belgium; Germany; Texas; California; Arizona; P.E.I.; Massachusetts; Ontario; the Yukon — literally from all over the world,” Fisher said of Cowichan’s Nashville North.

“It’s our own little SunFest city on the go.”

Folks are flocking to 1,000 campsites during Thursday to Sunday’s family festival hosted by benevolent locals at Wideglide Entertainment.

“We’re getting north of $75,000 a year we put back into local Cowichan charities,” said Wideglide head and SunFest founder Greg Adams.

“We’re over half a million dollars (donated locally) since we started.”

Humble beginnings at Providence Farm back in 2001 propelled SunFest to Avalon Equestrian Centre, and eventually to CowEx grounds several years ago.

SunFest’s success was fertilized by the folding of Merritt’s Mountain Festival, due to rowdyism and other reasons.

That’s why SunFest focusses on family fun, and tight security.

“Our fenced beverage garden has been increased by 400% capacity so there’ll be no line ups,” said Fisher, referencing B.C.’s newest liquor laws.

“The reserved seating area will be open licence, so you can take a drink back to your seat.”

Getting from car seats to the concert site sees new traffic-calming with no left turns from the highway, and turn-arounds at Mount Sicker Road for a right-lane site approach.

“The other way is straight through Mays Road,” Fisher said, adding early entry camping today (July 30) is sold out.

So are most hotel and motel rooms. SunFest’s titanic tourism spinoffs were country music to the ears of economic-development manager Geoff Millar.

“It’ll generate millions in direct and indirect business on the island, and in the Cowichan region,” he said, saluting Adams.

Fisher touted the festival’s tourism hike too.

“Some people who’ve never come to the island before are coming,” she said, noting next year’s headliner is already booked.

SunFest updates will be posted on its Facebook page, and mentioned on 89.7 SunFM.

Also, visit sunfestconcerts.com for entertainment and ticket details, and more.

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