When most people think of Detroit music, they usually think Motown, “Detroit Rock City,” Kid Rock or Eminem.
“Country” is hardly the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, for twenty-eight years (and counting), Detroit has been home of the largest free country music festival in the world — the Downtown Hoedown.
Every spring, hundreds of thousands of country music fans saddle up and corral themselves downtown in Hart Plaza for three days of country lifestyle and entertainment, enjoying performances from the industry’s biggest acts as well as checking out the new and rising stars on three stages, with nothing but continuous live music.
This weekend, May 14-16, marks the 28th Annual Downtown Hoedown, hosted by 99.5 WYCD. This FREE festival, which expects over 1.3 million attendees, has been the “big break” for such nationally known artists such as Garth Brooks (1989), Reba McEntire (1985), Rascal Flatts (2000), Big & Rich (2004), Montgomery Gentry (1999 & 2002), and Gretchen Wilson (2004), just to name a few.
But what does this mean for Detroit, on a larger scale?
“It’s a fabulous, world famous music event that musicians clamor to play at year after year, and the center of country music for the Midwest, as well as Detroit,” said Tim Roberts, program director of WYCD, “This year’s 59 total bands confirms that from the musical standpoint. All of the folk coming to Detroit proves what a great community we can have, and of course it stimulates the economy directly. It also has become more that just a country music festival, but the advent of spring in the city and a general fun and great way to start the summer season.”
Headlining this year in the “big name” country scene are Dierks Bentley, the Zac Brown Band, and hometown local favorite Uncle Kracker, along with rising stars Steel Magnolia, Randy Houser, and former Dancing with the Stars dancer-turned-singer Julianne Hough.
But it’s just not the A-list names in country featured at the Hoedown, oh no — some of Detroit’s finest local country acts are showcased — 37 in all this year — on all three stages. In fact, the entire third stage is dedicated to Detroit or Michigan-based artists.
Friday, local up-and-comer John Maison will be playing on the River Stage at 5 p.m.. Saturday you’ll be able to catch local TV news anchorman Stephen Clark from WYXZ Action News at 5 p.m. And of course, Detroit rock-star-turned-country-sensation Uncle Kracker will be taking the main stage at 10:20 p.m. Sunday is a special Detroit-musician-infused day, which includes multiple Detroit Music Award winner Billy Brandt with Billy Brandt’s Basement Band, The Orbitsuns, featuring Vinnie Dombrowski of 1990s rock sensation Sponge, Detroit country superstar Julianne — who needs no last name.
The Hoedown officially kicks off tonight at the Greektown Casino with a pre-party concert, featuring Hoedown Artist The McClymonts and Detroit Country Artist Justine Blazer.
If you decide to giddy-up on down to the Downtown Hoedown, here are a few pointers:
Dress in layers — it will get cooler at night and with Michigan weather this time of year, you never know what the sky will do
Don’t bring coolers or bottles — they are prohibited and there will be plenty of easy access to concessions
Get there early – WYCD is expecting over a million attendees this year, so it will be crazy. Here’s some parking information.
Make sure your cell phone is charged — all weekend long, WYCD will be having text-to-win contests for backstage passes!
Most importantly, BRING YOUR CAMERA – There will be tons of chances to meet all of the performers all weekend, including an official autograph booth!
The music will be non-stop all weekend, and Detroit Unspun will be there — will you?
More information on the Downtown Hoedown, including a complete schedule, can be found at the 99.5 WYCD website.