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This article was published 3/7/2017 (1009 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DAUPHIN — This year’s instalment of Dauphin’s Countryfest included some of country music’s most sought-after acts, including Friday’s headliner, four-time Grammy Award winner Keith Urban.
The country music superstar took to the Club Regent Casino & Event Centre main stage to a crowd of 14,000 on Friday evening.
Eric Irwin, president of Dauphin’s Countryfest for the last 21 years, attributes their success to a sense of community he described as unique.
"It’s our heart and soul," Irwin said of the festival.
Money from the festival goes back into the event in some way or another, since it’s one of few non-profit festivals in Canada, Irwin said.
Benefits of the festival’s non-profit mandate can be seen all over the campgrounds. Gravel roads that go all the way up to each campsite are in place, in addition to ice vendors and camp showers — which are cleaned daily during the festival — located at each campground, beach volleyball courts and three performance spaces.
That’s on top of the 50-plus headliners and up-and-coming Canadian musicians who performed at this year’s festival.
"We try to invest in making sure people who come here have the best time possible," Irwin said. "And we have great music and great camping experiences, all in one."
As a festival that attracts fans and members of the country music community, Irwin said they believe they have a duty to foster musical talent.
"I believe that festivals have a responsibility to nurture artists," Irwin said. "Chad Brownlee was a very junior artist playing at the upper stage and I was sitting next to an agent from Nashville … and he was so impressed by Chad Brownlee and the way he performed that he went and signed him to his artist roster right here."
Brownlee’s album, "Hearts on Fire," was nominated for Country Album of the Year at the 2017 Juno Awards.
Among other artists who hit the big time after their Dauphin debut include Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton. According to Irwin, Countryfest was the first Canadian festival played by both Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts.
"If you really showcase and put on a good show … they’ll go back to the town they came from and can talk about it, and it takes off from there," Irwin said.
To honour Canada 150, Irwin said that instead of their usual perogy or hot wing eating contest, this weekend featured a bacon and maple syrup eating contest.
"We sell a very unique product at the end of the day," Irwin said. "It’s a wonderful place to come, it’s beautiful, and it has an amphitheatre. At night, when the crowd comes down, it’s like an arena rock show."
The festival stretched out over the Canada Day long weekend from June 29 to July 2, attracting fans from far and wide to take in the festivities, Dauphin-style.
Since 1990, Dauphin’s Countryfest has made a name for itself. Known for attracting some of country music’s hottest talents, Dauphin also boasts a unique amphitheatre located at the edge of Riding Mountain National Park.
Dauphin’s own Kates Outlaw represented Westman on the stage this past weekend.
Countryfest is known for paying out approximately $150,000 each year to local organizations that assist with making the festival a success, and was a finalist for Tourism Event of the Year at the Canadian Tourism Awards in 2013.
Irwin said they are proud to have been able to contribute to the implementation of amenities in Dauphin, including a non-profit movie theatre, swimming pool and arena.
Performers this past weekend included Kendra Kay, Tim Hicks, Canadian country star Johnny Reid and Luke Bryan.
Weekend contests and events included 730 CKDM battle of the bands, a flip cup tournament, and live karaoke.
The event was sold out by Friday night.
Luke Bryan rocked the stage on Saturday night. He instructed the crew to kill all stage and house lights, and the audience filled the amphitheatre with thousands of twinkling cellphone lights. It was a moment Irwin described as fantastic.
"It was absolutely incredible," Irwin said.
He was excited to announce that country music duo Florida Georgia Line will be headlining Dauphin’s Countryfest in 2018, and called this year’s event a total success.
» The Brandon Sun