Pictured, from left, are Rahim Keval, assistant vice president of business development at Partnership Bank; Tom Stanton, executive director of Mel’s Charities; Mikko Hilvo, Cedarburg Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director; Alex Uhan, Country in the Burg organizer and promoter; Randy Groth, Country in the Burg promoter; Michael O’Keefe, Cedarburg mayor; and David Braaten, CEO of Partnership Bank.
By Nicholas Dettmann
CEDARBURG — Alex Uhan has had the dream of hosting a country music festival for nearly five years.
What he didn’t think would happen in his wildest dreams was the support the festival would get almost the minute he suggested the idea. And this was before any date or list of performers were announced.
On Friday afternoon, Uhan, a former West Bend West volleyball coach, announced the lineup for the inaugural Country in the Burg Festival, which will be Aug. 24, at Cedar Creek Park in Cedarburg.
The opening acts are Love and Theft and Jon Langston. The headliner is Kip Moore.
“It’s the most humbling feeling ever to see the support I’ve gotten through this from fans, family, friends,” Uhan said. “It’s a weight off your shoulders. It’s one of those things where you dream about something, you work hard ... I have another job. I do Premier Volleyball. I’m doing this until 1 or 2 in the morning, making calls and people saying, ‘No this isn’t going to happen. There’s too many festivals.’ To really see it now, it just means the world.”
The event aims to raise money for Mel’s Charities, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Wounded Warriors.
Uhan acknowledged there is a saturation of fair and concert options, especially for country music fans in southeastern Wisconsin. Within two hours are festivals such as Country USA in Oshkosh, Country Thunder in Twin Lakes, several county fairs and, of course, Summerfest.
With that in mind, Uhan knew he had to make a splash for the inaugural festival instead of what some suggested to him, go small and build. He disagreed. He knew he had to make a statement. Thus came the idea of a concert event that also benefits local charities.
Plus, getting recognizable performers was also a must and getting Moore, Love and Theft and Langston fit that bill.
Love and Theft is a group that enjoyed immediate success. The band’s first album, “World Wide Open,” reached No. 10 on the U.S. Country chart. Their next album, which was self-titled, reached No. 4. The band’s first single — “Runaway” — was released in 2009 and got to No. 10. Two years later, “Angel Eyes,” was No. 1.
“They have amazing energy on stage,” Uhan said.
Langston, Uhan said, is the next big star in country music. He just came off a tour where he opened for Luke Bryan and Chase Rice. His latest single, “When It Comes To Loving You,” is rising on the charts, recently cracking the top 30.
Then there is Moore.
In 2015, Moore performed at the Washington County Fair. When he comes to Country in the Burg, it’ll be the only appearance he has in southeastern Wisconsin.
He has released three albums since his debut in 2012 and all three reached the top three. He also has four top-10 singles, including No. 1 hit “Somethin’ About A Truck.”
“Kip was one of the few guys we wanted,” Uhan said. “We aimed for a couple guys to be a headliner and Kip was one. To get Kip to come to a hometown Cedarburg, Wis., is just going to mean huge things, not only for the community, for the county, for the state; it’s going to be amazing.
“Kip puts on amazing shows. He’s a great acoustic player. With his band, he’s always moving on stage. He’s headlined at Miller Park.”
Cedarburg Mayor Mike O’Keefe said he and others in the city are delighted at the notion of the event.
“We are proud and excited to have this event in Cedarburg,” O’Keefe said. “This is a little different from our regular offerings, something unique and special. It’s the kind of thing that keeps a historic community such as ours vibrant and relevant.”
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday at www.countryintheburg.com. The concert series is presented by Partnership Bank. Attendance would likely be capped at 5,000 despite the fact that the facility can fit about 7,000.
Tickets are $89 for reserved or pit seating and $59 for general admission. Gates will open at about 4:30 p.m. with the first act at 5:45 p.m. and finish around 10 p.m.
“To finally tell people who the artists are, it’s real now,” Uhan said.
There were times he admitted times got difficult as he struggled to put the preliminary plans together, such as locking in a venue and gauging interest from potential performers.
In April, he created a Facebook event just to see what would happen. Today, nearly 6,000 people have responded to the event as either interested in it or absolutely going, long before any act or acts were revealed.
On top of that, he had people routinely see him and stop him to tell him they were behind the whole idea.
Uhan had a number of people and groups to thank, such as Cedarburg officials and local charity officials. Another one was Randy Groth, owner of Masterprintwear in Jackson. Groth played a pivotal role in getting the performers locked in.
“Mel’s Charities is looking forward to having Great Times for Great Causes with Alex and his team,” said Mel’s Charities founder Tom Stanton. “This will really help raise awareness and funds for our organization. We are grateful to be part of Country in the Burg.”