BRIDGEPORT, Wis. — A popular local country music festival won’t be held in 2018, organizers announced Friday morning.
The Country on the River festival posted on social media that the annual event in Bridgeport will not take place next year. The announcement came as many of the festival’s most-fervent attendees wondered about advance tickets for the event, which in past years have been on sale on Black Friday.
The decision is bad news for nearby business owners, many of whom reaped economic benefits from tens of thousands of festival-bound fans.
“What do you say besides, ‘It sucks?’ It’s just very disappointing,” said Curt Zinkle, owner of Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly in Prairie du Chien. “The whole town gets a lot of foot traffic from the concert.”
In 2016, festival organizer Townsquare Media officials said the three-day event drew 8,000 to 10,000 fans per day.
Both the social media post and Townsquare officials left open the possibility that the festival could return — maybe.
“Instead, we’ll be taking a year off to look at improvements to the event,” stated both a post and an email statement from McKay Murphy, of Townsquare Media. “We hope to be back in 2019 bigger, better … and even more country.”
Efforts to obtain more information on what prompted the decision were unsuccessful.
The festival has been held annually since its inception in 2010 and regularly draws some of the biggest current country stars. Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne, Randy Houser, Darius Rucker and Eli Young Band were among the featured acts in early August this year.
During its first two years, the event was held on Prairie du Chien’s St. Feriole Island. Due to its growth, it relocated to south of the city in Bridgeport Township in 2012.
The economic impact of the decision likely will be felt throughout the area. In the past, the event has been a boon for businesses, as attendees would fill nearby hotels and campgrounds, shop at stores and eat at restaurants.
The Country on the River Facebook page flooded with hundreds of comments Friday from potential attendees lamenting the 2018 event being canceled.
Prairie du Chien interim City Administrator Chad Abram said the move will be felt throughout the city.
“It’s very unfortunate for us,” Abram said. “It’s going to be hitting a lot of the businesses, and it will probably impact our city revenue for the year as well. It’s always been a big draw.”
Chris Meyer, general manager of AmericInn Lodge & Suites Prairie du Chien, said her hotel often was completely booked during the festival.
“We were completely full with only people coming for the concert,” she said. “I’m pretty sure we were practically fully reserved for next year’s festival, but that isn’t happening now.”
Meyer said she feels the festival’s absence will have a bigger impact than just a weekend of less-than-expected sales.
“The biggest loss is that we are losing a chance to introduce tons of new people to Prairie du Chien,” she said. “A lot of people who attended Country on the River would come back just to visit the area. That can’t happen if there isn’t any festival.”
Robert Moses, executive director of Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce, said the festival has been economically beneficial for the city for many years, but he declined to offer further comment.