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This article was published 29/6/2019 (764 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DAUPHIN — Basking in the near-30 C weather, thousands of country fans descended on the valley to join in on the fun at Dauphin’s Countryfest.
The tiny valley has come alive, with scores of campers turning the area into a small town for the weekend, with the area filling out with the sound of music for the 30th annual event.
Early Friday evening, the bleachers looking toward the main amphitheater slowly filled with spectators eager to catch featured musicians Madeline Merlo, the Brothers Osborne and Old Dominion.
Rocking the secondary Bell MTS Stage, Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair and their band Tucker Lane made their first-ever appearance at the music festival on Friday.
Hailing from Saskatoon, the band appeared to have a great time playing a mix of self-penned songs both new and old, alongside a collection of cover songs that many audience members busted out their best two-step to.
"It was a lot of fun to play," Stanwyck said. "We get all fired up. It’s a good feeling."
She said that they could feel the energy of the crowd and enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and musicians while enjoying a sunny day.
"It’s a festive time."
A blend of eclectic guests filled the grounds, ranging from the young to the old and sober to intoxicated. People came clad in swimsuits, cowboy/girl wear and everything between. Some wandered the grounds, singing off-key along to the music permeating the air, leaving forgotten beer cans littered in their wake.
Dauphin resident Al Gray has been coming to Countryfest for 30 years and said he has relished seeing the festival grow from "hoping it would succeed to seeing it succeed."
It is astounding to see the calibre of some of the acts that now grace the stage, he said, adding that he appreciates the level of talent the festival is able to bring to Dauphin. He cited an appearance by legendary country songstress Reba McEntire a few years ago as a notable example.
"She was absolutely amazing," he said. "To have her here was absolutely spectacular."
Countryfest plays an important role in the community, he said, adding he appreciates that proceeds generated from the festival have gone back into the both community and festival site.
Gray’s Countryfest community has grown in tandem with the festival, and he has built a group of friends he only sees at the festival.
"Generally, it’s a sense of community," he said. "You see friendly faces."
The most important lesson he has learned over the years is that one never knows what weather to expect, he said, adding that he was grateful for the beautiful, warm weather that graced Friday’s festivities.
"Hopefully, Saturday will hold," he said. "If it does storm tomorrow you’ll see how resilient the country music fans are. None of them will leave the amphitheater unless they’re forced to. … They’re in garbage bags and tarps. Everyone is here for a good time and I think a good time is had by all."
It can be scorching hot or freezing cold during the festival, he said, and guests need to be prepared for anything — "including having a good time," he said with a laugh.
Attending the festival for the first time, Susanne Wasthaver came to the event from Flin Flon alongside friend and seasoned festival veteran Diane Mayuk.
Wasthaver said she was amazed by the incredible crowds and music.
"The energy here is just incredible. ... You catch it from everybody."
Every year has a special moment for those who love country music, Mayuk said, adding that every band brings something extraordinary.
"It’s a great outing. … If you love country music, or any music this is the place to come."
The fun continues over the weekend. Musicians Chad Brownlee, Terri Clark and Jason Aldean will be performing on the main stage Saturday night, followed by David Lee Murphy, Clay Walker and Toby Keith on Sunday evening.
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