Sunfest festival makes a big return to Lake Cowichan this weekend

More than 50 performances are scheduled for the July 28-31 Country Music Festival in Lake Cowichan, including some big ones: Darius Rucker, Randy Bachman and Hardy.

SUNFEST COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL

With: Darius Rucker, Kip Moore, Randy Bachman, Hardy, Orville Peck and more

Where: Laketown Ranch Music and Recreation Park, 8811-2 Youbou Rd., Lake Cowichan

When: Thursday to Sunday, July 28th to 31st

Tickets: $61.95-$240.45 daily; $282.45-$838.95 for a weekend pass from sunfestconcerts.com

The Sunfest country music festival, the third and largest of three multi-day events at Laketown Ranch this summer, officially begins Thursday night with 10 performances across two stages.

However, the movement has been underway for two days as eager campers plan what will be their temporary home for most of the week. Many participants who camped on site took advantage of the Lake Cowichan Festival’s early invitation opportunity this year.

More than 200 locations were manned on Tuesday, with another 600 locations being prepared on Wednesday. The most dedicated fans will have spent six days on site before Monday’s store.

According to festival manager Mike Hann, there are still some campsites available for latecomers, but he expects these will be gone once the music gets into full swing on the festival’s three stages on Friday. “We feel great going into this weekend,” said Hann.

“We are two festivals and run like a well-oiled machine.”

Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker is this year’s headliner, and according to Hann, 9,000 fans should be in the Concert Bowl area for the Grammy Award-winner’s anticipated set on Saturday. This adds to the main stage area at Laketown Ranch, which has been very busy in recent weeks, with performances by the Wu-Tang Clan, Arkells and the Glorious Sons at the Laketown Shakedown (June 30-July 2) as well as John Fogerty and Tom Cochrane in Laketown Rock (July 22-23).

Sunfest seems poised to improve its brethren’s attendance in terms of attendance. More than 50 performances are on the program, including some big ones. Hardy, the US country star who was named Songwriter of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in March, is ready to close out the festival in a big way on Sunday.

When the event wraps up, Hann said it will be strange not having another event on-site until next summer. “It was a lot to headline three events. The different moving parts with all that, that’s definitely a juggling act.”

A busy schedule aside, many of the website improvements have enriched the customer experience and made Hann’s job a lot easier. “For those who have never been here, we get a lot of great feedback on the experience. There are festival curveballs thrown at you, but we love how the site runs and looks.”

Curveballs this year included the late cancellation of Billy Currington, who resigned less than two weeks ago. Currington, who was set to make headlines on Friday, was replaced on the program by Guess Who’s Randy Bachman and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

“We are very happy that we were able to sign him at such short notice, which is not easy these days,” said Hann. “Over the years we’ve seen a lot of country acts on our stage covering his music with great fanfare, so we’re really excited.”

Temperatures in the Cowichan Valley are expected to top 30C this weekend, but the 260-acre, multi-purpose Sunfest site is well-equipped to weather a heatwave. Shade tents, mist patches, and water stations are available throughout Laketown Ranch. Drinking water comes from a natural aquifer located directly beneath Laketown Ranch.

“We don’t charge for water,” said Hann. “If people bring a reusable plastic water bottle, they’re set.”

The festival also features RV pump-outs for revelers staying in one of the RV areas for an extended period of time. “These are little things that make the stay pleasant, especially when it’s hot,” says Hann.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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