Country Music Festivals: The good, the bad and the smelly

Toby Keith at the Minnesota State Fair
Toby Keith at the Minnesota State Fair
Nikki Miller-Rose

Ohhh, the weather outside is... not as bad as they said it was gonna be? Okay, it still sucks. But soon -- yes, soon... too soon in fact! -- it will be summer, and it will be really stupidly hot, and we'll be going to music festivals and become reacquainted with the sweet summer smell of a beer-and-mud-soaked tent, 100-degree sun-baked port-a-potty, and the rancid pickle smell of a field full of sweaty cowboy boot socks and hat rims. Right? Right.

Outdoor country music festival is very nearly upon us! Here's the nitty-gritty, the good, the bad, and the smelly.

See also: Ten country songs to bring on the spring The ten best country albums of 2012

Winstock Country Music Festival June 7-8 Winsted, MN $105-155 (VIP sold out), plus $20 for parking (camping passes sold out)

Highlights: Miranda Lambert's feisty side project Pistol Annies and popular bluegrass/American devotee Dierks Bentley perform on Friday night, Thursday night features the Winsted Fire Department's annual Spaghetti Dinner, and don't miss the annual campsite decorating contest - this year's theme, performer Neal McCoy's hit song, "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On." Any bets on how many guys will actually incorporate their flesh-and-blood wives into their art installations?

Watch out for: "Hold On Loosely" in your head for the rest of the damned summer - .38 Special plays Saturday night around dinnertime. Also beware an f'ing beanbag tournament, and scores of country girls doing their best interpretation of what Saturday headliner Luke Bryan means when he implores them to, "Dance, like a dandelion in the wind on the hill underneath the pines; Move, like the river flows, feel the kick drum down deep in your toes. Shake it for the young bucks sitting in the honky-tonks, for the rednecks rocking 'til the break of dawn. Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees, shake it for the catfish swimming down deep in the creek, for the crickets and the critters and the squirrels, shake it for the moon, shake it for me girl, aw, country girl, shake it for me, girl, shake it for me, girl, shake it for me." Shudder.

Kick'n Up Kountry June 13-15 Karlstad, MN $65-479, plus $5-135 for camping/parking

Highlights: Marty Stuart? Ronnie Milsap? Restless Heart? More like be still, heart. Okay, so this festival might bring out more of the old folks than Winstock or WE Fest, but that's the way we like it. Plus, entertainment on day one features Ladies Level 5 World Champion Mounted Shooter Laura Pikop! We don't know what that means, but we like that, too! And there are lawnmower races at this thing! Ack!

Watch out for: Karlstad is really stinkin' far away. Like, Canada far away. And not the side of Canada where you're like, "Oh, we're gonna drive to Duluth. Oh, and maybe we'll just push on off a little farther to Two Harbors. International Falls, okay! Oh wow, we're in Canada." Nope. This is the other side, like, north of Thief River Falls even. Oofda.

Moondance Jammin' Country June 21-22 Walker, MN $80-350, plus $50-300 for camping/parking

Highlights: Jake Owen has amazing teeth.

Watch out for: WE Fest Redux. Except... this happens before WE Fest. And the lineup's actually totally different from WE Fest. Blah, it's every artist making the festival circuit this summer. What's the diff.  

Country Fest June 27-30 Cadott, WI $43.75-$525, plus $35-255 for camping

Highlights: Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, Little Big Town and super guilty pleasure Gloriana.

Watch out for: Sunday night headliner Jason Aldean cryin' over his wife. Or maybe not. (He recently filed for divorce after tabloid photos emerged of him making out with an American Idol reject.)

Country Jam July 18-20, 2013 Eau Claire, WI $30-520, plus $15-220 for camping

Highlights: Kix Brooks of defunct duo Brooks & Dunn strikes out on his own, Kelly Clarkson's undeniably a sweetheart, and you know, The Band Perry ain't all that bad. Plus Craig Morgan sings that cool song about International Harvester tractors.

Watch out for: The explosion of distasteful Auto-Tune and frosted tips that is Rascal Flatts. These are the times Bud Light - official sponsor! - was made for.

Prior Lake Rotary Club's Lakefront Music Fest July 19-20 Prior Lake, MN $20 advance for both nights, or $20/night at the gate

Highlights: Honestly? You should probably plan to go on Friday night, when the lineup features throwback rock acts Firehouse, Warrant, and Bret Michaels. A portion of the ticket prices for the festival will benefit The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, Laker Athletic Booster Club, and Patrons of the Arts & Activities.

Watch out for: The evening of country on Saturday is a little... limp, and features Casey James and Montgomery Gentry.

WE Fest August 1-3 Detroit Lakes, MN $129 General Admission (all Reserved/VIP is sold out), plus $65-195+ for camping/parking (VIP sections sold out)

Highlights: Kenny Rogers, dudes. You know you wanna. And awesome, awesome, awesome irreverent Canadian indie/outlaw country performer Corb Lund plays a low spot on the bill. Worth it? Maybe. Maybe. Throw in the opportunity to get totally wasted for the Big & Rich set? Yes. Worth it.

Watch out for: Every important Top 40 band everyone else will be going to see. Keith Urban. Carrie Underwood. Eric Church. Darius Rucker. Kellie Pickler. Walker Hayes. Gary Allan. :(

Ramble Jam September 29-21 Farmington, MN Tickets TBA

Highlights: Lineup still TBA. But we do know this - a late September festival date means the port-a-potties won't stink anymore! As bad. We mean, they at least won't smell "hot?" That's good, right?

Watch out for: Uh, we'll know once the lineup is announced, which we're promised will happen very soon.

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