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WE Fest goes 'cashless': 2022 festival will use armband system for IDs, purchases

The armbands will be used for pretty much all services offered on site, from admission to the campgrounds and concert bowl to food, beverage and souvenir purchases. Other improvements to this year's "WE Fest experience" have been made to the main stage, VIP hospitality and seating areas.

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Slamabama's Jasper Juliano entertained the WE Fest crowd with his guitar-picking skills on the Barn Stage in 2021. This year the festival's main stage has been restructured to allow for more crowd interaction.
Vicki Gerdes / Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — The WE Fest country music festival, scheduled this year for Aug. 4-6 at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch, is moving into a new era of digital identification.

Armbands worn by festival patrons will now be used for pretty much all services offered on site, from admission to the campgrounds and concert bowl to purchasing food, beverages and souvenirs.

"We are going to RFID — radio frequency identification — at all entrances and points of sale," says WE Fest General Manager Mark Bjerke. "When you buy your ticket, you'll get a wristband that needs to be activated."

Once activated, the wristband will be tied to a form of payment — either cash or a credit/debit card can be used — that can be reloaded once depleted.

"We call it 'cashless,' because payment for all goods and services on site will be through the wristband," Bjerke said, adding that it provides enhanced security both for vendors and patrons. "It's not wise to carry that much cash at any major event."

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Check-in and check-out for employees will also be handled electronically from now on, he added, noting that with this system in place, allocation of staffing and resources can be done much more efficiently, to better serve both patrons and artists.

"It offers better service for our customers, and better efficiency for us as a company," Bjerke said, "because resources will go where they're most needed."

Another notable change this year has been made to the main stage, which has been redesigned to include a T-shaped thrust off the main platform so artists can walk out among the audience without leaving the stage.

There will be a pit off either side of the thrust stage, between the main platform and the top of the 'T,' where patrons can stand and watch the show using "pit passes" that allow them admission into this coveted, close-up area.

"I think the pit passes are mostly sold out," Bjerke said in mid-April, noting that this particular change was driven by the artists and not financial considerations.

The VIP, reserved and lawn seating areas have also been restructured so that the best seats — i.e., the ones closest to the stage — are the most expensive.

Bjerke explained that when Townsquare Media took over the management of WE Fest, they did away with the multi-tiered sections so that all the seats in each section, whether it was VIP, reserved or lawn seating, were the same price. This year, they're bringing back the multi-tiered system.

"We're going back to our 2016 pricing this year," he said.

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Another change is in the VIP hospitality area, which has been renovated to include new fencing, a larger tent and more room to move around.

Other changes have been made behind the scenes as well, mainly to streamline operations and increase efficiency.

"It's still all about the customer," Bjerke said, "but the more efficient we are, the more it helps us to keep our prices in check."

As for the artists lined up to take the main stage this year, the full schedule has already been announced and can be accessed at the website, wefest.com .

Headliners Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert — all announced last fall — will be joined by 12 other acts during the three-day festival, including Tanya Tucker, Lee Brice, Clay Walker and Chris Janson, along with emcee Cowboy Troy.

The full lineup is as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 4: Chris Janson, Blanco Brown, Elvie Shane and Hitchville will precede headliner Jason Aldean.
  • Friday, Aug. 5: Headliner Miranda Lambert will be joined by Lee Brice, Clay Walker, Priscilla Block and Ray Fulcher.
  • Saturday, Aug. 5: Luke Bryan will headline the final day's schedule, which also includes Riley Green, Tanya Tucker, Ian Munsick and Ella Langley.

Cowboy Troy will be this year’s main stage emcee, and there will be additional entertainment and live music performances at both the Soo Pass Ranch Saloon and Barn Stage (presented by the Star Tribune), starting with the Tuesday, Aug. 2 pre-party and Wednesday, Aug. 3 kickoff party and continuing throughout the festival's three-day run.

If you go

What: WE Fest 2022
Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes
When: Thursday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 6; pre-party is Tuesday, Aug. 2 on the Saloon Stage, with a kickoff party to follow on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at the Barn Stage
How: Tickets and camping packages can be purchased online at wefest.com

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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