BROWNSVILLE, Ore. (CelebrityAccess) The Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival, held April 16-19 near Brownsville, Ore., and featuring Eric Church, Kid Rock and Lady Antebellum, may have seen its last days amid a rising cacophony of complaints about nonpayment and arrests.
The festival has been a staple of the community for about a decade, held on the farm of Reed Anderson. Last year’s event featured Thomas Rhett, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban and Zac Brown Band.
However, events have turned “disastrous,” according to the Salem Statesman-Journal. The event is reportedly organized by WCMC (Willamette Country Music Concerts), based in Delaware, which also promotes Country Crossings Music Festival in Central Point, near Medford, and Mountain Home Country Music Festival in Idaho. The ownership structure leads to IMG of WME-IMG, with a representative telling the paper in an email that WCMC has not decided if either of the Oregon festivals will be held next year.
The festival was until recently run by Anne Hankins who was apparently removed in September and told the paper she has not been involved in the event since March.
Meanwhile, vendors including the Linn County Sheriff’s Office who is owed $78,000 for providing additional security for the event, are waiting for reimbursement. Lebanon Fire District Chief Gordon Sletmoe told the Albany Democrat-Herald the district has not been paid $45,377 for providing 55 staff for 741 hours and 24/7 coverage.
“We have yet to get anything from them,” Sletmoe said. “We have had shoestring communications and we have been told they are working on it. But, we understand there is only one employee working for Willamette Country Music Concerts and she is reporting to someone else.”
Several vendors, owed between hundreds and “thousands and thousands of dollars” have reportedly filed fraud complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice. There is a closed Facebook group of about three dozen vendors where they air their complaints, the paper said.
“When I owned it, the bills were paid,” Hankins told the Statesman-Journal.
Meanwhile, Bi-Mart has dropped its sponsorship of the festival, as well as its sponsorship of the two others promoted by WCMC.
This year’s event had 136 calls for law enforcement services, up from 55 in 2013, and an additional 150 calls throughout the county attributed to the event.
Festival organizers attempted to move the 2018 festival from Brownsville to a 692-acre farm near Ankeney National Wildlife Refuge, 12 miles south of Salem, doubling its size to 60,000 but was rejected by government officials, according to the Statesman-Journal. The application was revised downward to 30,000 but was also rejected and it appears the festival has nowhere else to go.
“Things are a mess,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist told the Statesman-Journal. “I think Marion County dodged a bullet,” adding, “That farmer who was proposing to put this on his site probably ought to send the neighbors who objected a Christmas card.”
IMG employee Maura McGreevy, a spokeswoman for the Willamette Country Music Concerts, told the Democrat-Herald that “the company is in the process of assessing the festivals and reviewing vendor inquiries. No decisions about 2019 have been made at this time.”
McGreevy added that WCMC announced in July that the Mountain Home Country Music Festival in Idaho would not return.
Yon said he was told by a “festival spokesperson” that an audit of the festival’s business operations was under way and a decision on the Oregon festivals fates would be made after a review. Meanwhile, he said he hand-delivered an invoice for $77,000 to the music festival’s office in Eugene but “there were no computers on desks” and did not know who took them.
“Look, we can take legal action, but we really want to see this resolved sooner than later,” Yon told the Democrat-Herald.
Meanwhile, the website for the festival, already promoting the 2019 lineup, has a lonely photo of Jason Aldean without any explanation and the caveat “Artists subject to change.”
CelebrityAccess has reached out to WME-IMG during the weekend and will update the story if there is any response after the company reopens on Monday.