A Look Inside: Country Jam 2023

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 7:51 AM CDT
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“It’s crazy. I mean 365 days ago, I would be knee deep in cornstalks.”

Nerve-wracking best describes the past 365 days for Country Jam USA Festival Director, Kathy Wright.

“You know, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this festival site was. It’s been amazing the amount of work contractors that have been doing, working their tails off the last 12 months, really to get us prepared for today,” says Wright.

Wright says it’s exciting to see the worker’s personal stamp they’ve put into wanting to see the project come to fruition.

“What I love is that there are so many people that have their hands on this project are electricians, are plumbers, are landscapers that have been coming to this festival for so many years.”

Countless hours of planning and brainstorming have gone into shaping the image of the new Country Jam venue, that includes touring music festivals around the country the past two years. The goal? Providing the ultimate fan experience.

“I think the biggest change for our guests is just permanent structures. With our old festival site being on a floodplain we never had the ability to build anything permanent for our guest. So being down here behind me is our high country which is a 19,000 square foot building that’s going to be where our side stage bands are going to play,” explains Wright.

A larger party pit close to the main stage exclusively for rowdy country music fans Wright says is one of the big things their artists desire.

“One of the big changes in the industry is moving the preferred seating, the VIP seating back a little big farther, like our Garden deck behind us and really allowing that cray fan to be up next to the stage.”

Another major change for their guests, a campground that is right on site.

“There is a chain link fence and the campground begins. So over 300 electrical sites, several with full water, sewer hookups, another 700 plus regular campsites for our guests. And the ability to come in and our throughout the day is going to be really great.”

With expansive vantage points, Wright along with Eau Claire Event District CEO Holly Hedrington believe Country Jam will be a destination spot for Eau Claire residents to use year round.

“This is a year round facility. But being an outdoor music festival, we didn’t want to have people have to come feel like they were going inside when they were here. So we made sure that this building, which is going to be able to be used 365 days a year during our festivals, we could open up the garage doors on the side and make people feel like they were both outside and inside at the same time,” adds Wright.

“Our other site had a lot of breaks in it, so you couldn’t see the stage from a lot of places, our side stage, you couldn’t see the main stage. So this building in particular, when when I came here and stood on this patio and looked out, I thought the planning of this was really perfect too. They couldn’t have done a better job with the contractors we have and the group that that set the site in motion couldn’t have done a better job in the layout,” says Hedrington.

The layout and attention to detail are future selling points for the Eau Claire Event District as the popularity of country music continues to explode.

“Country music has grown dramatically the past decade, you know our big artists are now selling out stadiums, which is something they’ve never done before. You know those big time acts are like, ooh, I don’t want to go to a festival and have to use a porta potty. With having some of our permanent structures, those headliners are going to much more comfortable here,” says Wright.

Wright says while the memories at the old Country Jam site are to be cherished, she says it’s time to make some new ones.

“Do you remember watching Zac Brown knee deep in water? So those memories are there and are kind of funny because they are really one of the detriments of the old site, but it’s part of its story. So we’re just looking forward to everyone coming out and making new memories here and expanding our festival portfolio, putting on more events for our community and taking it all in.”