Country Fest defies weather to bring in largest crowds to date

Dwight Yoakam, Manitoulin Country Fest Friday headliner, sings ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’ to an appreciative audience of over 9,000. photos by Michael Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT—It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Okay, it wasn’t at all bad, in fact, once the early afternoon deluge and thunderstorm on Friday had faded into the horizon Manitoulin Country Fest 2017 not only enjoyed great weather, the stellar lineup of acts headlined by Corb Lund, Dwight Yoakam and Joe Nichols and a constellation of some of the best country music stars in the business, such as Washboard Union, Michelle Wright and Wiikwemkoong’s own Anishnabe warbler Crystal Shawanda, as well as a host of solid established acts leavened with some up and coming talents, ensured that there was something to delight every one of the more than 9,000 people who attended.

By the time Mr. Yoakam took to the stage, the crowds extended across the Manitoulin Country Fest grounds almost to the very gates. Friday’s attendance was easily the largest audience Manitoulin’s premiere music festival has seen to date. As for the weather, it just kept getting better and better, defying the predictions of the weatherman and making a whole lot of country music fans very, very happy.

“It was a bit nerve wracking at the start, not so much because of the rain, country fans are a pretty resilient bunch, but the lightening early Friday did concern us,” said organizer KT Timmermans. “But there were a lot of people praying for the weather to turn and that came through for us in spades, by the time Michelle Wright stepped onstage Friday evening the rain had stopped and it turned into a beautiful evening and you couldn’t have asked for better weather the rest of the weekend.”

Michelle Wright autographs one of her youngest fans at
Manitoulin Country Fest.

“Craig and I, and all the staff down here at Country 103, are so very grateful to all of the fans who came out to share our love of country music, the musicians who shared their incredible talents with us and most especially for the many hardworking volunteers without whom we simply could not make this happen,” Ms. Timmermans added.

“It has been a wonderful weekend and we encourage everyone to check in to our webpage to follow progress on the lineup for the 2018 Manitoulin Country Fest. We have proven that it is getting better with each and every year,” she said.

The Friday night crowd, undaunted by earlier showers, stretched far and wide.

The Country Music Fan Experience was won by Kathy Jewell (animal altruism clearly pays off, Ms. Jewell is very active with a Manitoulin animal rescue organization), while Jake’s ‘Best Seats in the House’ was won by Ron Harris of Massey/Webbwood. The Best Dressed RV contest was won by Lori Millsap of Evansville. If you didn’t win any of those prizes, don’t despair, there is still time to purchase tickets on the amazing Epiphone Sunburst guitar that was on display at the site (signed by every artist—except Dwight Yoakam). The draw date for the guitar is September 30 and tickets are available at the Country 103 office beside The Expositor on Water Street in Little Current, at Community Living Espanola or from any of its board members.

Chris Buck and Manitoulin Country Fest emcee Beverly Mahood kick up their heels to the delight of fans

Although an exhausted, but smiling, KT and Craig Timmermans said they were very pleased with the success of the event, Ms. Timmermans did express one regret. “We are so busy throughout the weekend that we don’t have time to really sit down and enjoy the music ourselves,” she laughed ruefully. Hopefully accompanying the winner of the Country Music Fan Experience to the Country Music Association Awards will compensate for that.