Thousands set up camp ahead of Hodag Country Festival - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Thousands set up camp ahead of Hodag Country Festival


Country music fans are setting up camp in Rhinelander in anticipation of the Hodag Country Music Festival.

The festival is in its 36th year and despite a star-studded line-up, some fans told us it's not all about the music.

"I'll be honest, I never even look at it this year. It doesn't matter to me which one's playing I just come because it's a blast," said Devin Nowak of Sheboygan.

He said he's been attending the music festival since he was 16 years old.

"After I turned 21 it got a lot more interesting," said Nowak. "We've got a lot of different family all over the grounds and we just have a good time."

He's a little early. The show doesn't even start until Thursday. But he's not the only one getting settled in days in advance.

"It took us four hours to get everything set up," said Garland Hunter of Laona. He and his wife chose a more unconventional living situation.

"We put up the teepee this year because three years ago we sold our travel trailer and we really love our teepee even in warm weather," said Hunter.

Festival coordinators said it's people like Hunter and Nowak that make Hodag special.

"It's heartwarming to see that you have all these fans, followers that love Hodag that plan their whole summer around Hodag. It's good to see people come back," said Gerry Can Harpen. She and her two sisters own and operate the country music festival.

She said during the four days of music, 20,000 people will pack the grounds.

"It brings in a lot of people. It's just a whole other city," said Van Harpen.

She's not kidding. There are a little less than 8,000 people who live in Rhinelander. That means the festival is about triple the city's size.

"And more people are coming up every year. Coming up earlier every year," added Van Harpen.

The first acts take the stage Thursday night. Organizers said there are still spots open in the overflow camping lot. Single-day and four-day music passes are also available.

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