PENDLETON — Macklemore himself told the crowd he had no idea what he was doing in Pendleton. The Grammy-award-winning artist was making his first appearance in the area for the sixth Pendleton Whisky Music Fest.
“But then I walked out and saw everyone, and was like, OK, this is what we’re doing here,” Macklemore said to the packed stands and roaring fans.
The filled seats at the Round-Up Arena marked the triumphant, full return of Pendleton Whisky Music Fest. The pandemic canceled the event in 2020, and in 2021 the festival saw limited attendance and a different headliner than planned.
“At that time the state hadn’t even opened up yet,” said Doug Corey, Whisky Fest’s co-founder, “we decided to do Toby and limit the venue size.”
Toby Keith was onstage performing for the lucky 12,000 people who secured a ticket in 2021. Due to the change, Corey and his co-founder Andy McAnally offered ticket refunds. Even with refunds offered, Corey said they retained nearly 80% of the ticket revenue.
Those ticket holders saw the return of the original acts meant for 2020, headliner Eric Church and Macklemore, who were moved to 2022 to perform in front of a packed crowd.
The crowds made sure to show up; Corey said more than 19,000 tickets had been sold, with the ground-level party pit and arena seating completely booked.
Fans trickled in through the opening acts — Nate Botsford and Ashley Cooke — before that trickle turned into a solid stream. Midway through Dylan Scott’s performance, the party pit was full.
Macklemore stepped out for his performance to a raucous crowd, laughing, drinking and dancing to the Seattle-based singer’s music. He was the one non-country act of the day.
As he finished his set, the sunlight faded and the event lights blinded nearly everyone in the city as headliner Eric Church saluted Pendleton with his award-winning country music. Church’s light show only caused the crowd to roar even louder.
People from all over the West Coast traveled for the event, with many commenting on how alive the setting felt.
“It’s awesome, amazing atmosphere,” Jack Liles, a country music fan who drove nearly four hours to come to the event, said, “Way better (than last year).”
“I’ve been coming here three years,” Pendleton-born and Portland-based photojournalist Diana Thompson said, “and it gets better and better every year.”
Event manager Corey shared that sentiment. Ever since it started in 2016, the Whisky Fest has grown bit by bit, proving the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds are suitable for multiple uses.
“The idea of the event originally was that we wanted to try to make this a community event,” Corey said. “We wanted to bring good music to Pendleton.”
Community members from the Rotary Club to the Pendleton High School baseball team attended the event. Despite the growing size of the music fest, Corey and McAnally try to keep everything local. Most press staff covering the event hailed from Oregon or the Walla Walla area.
That community atmosphere mixed with the many people traveling to Pendleton to see their favorite artists created a fun atmosphere, showing again there’s more to Pendleton than one of the most impressive large outdoor rodeos in North America.
It’s enough to make Macklemore see why he came out here.
Original Article: Source