TOPEKA — As Drew Galloway, a junior at K-State, put it, “Today is the day Country Stampede died.”
Extreme? Maybe. But technically accurate since officials on Thursday announced the 24-year-old festival would be renamed Heartland Stampede and was permanently moving from Manhattan’s Tuttle Creek State Park to Topeka’s Heartland Motorsports Park.
Many fans at the festival on Thursday said they felt the same way.
Several people complained about muddy conditions, a lack of trees and some logistical problems: they said the gates opened an hour later than they were supposed to; campsites were cramped; and water availability.
“There’s more shade there,” said Brian Heafey, referring to Tuttle Creek State Park, “It’s just something you get used to.”
Other people like couple Dan and Karen Sedor had been going to Stampede for nearly 14 years and said they weren’t impressed.
“We helped set up on Sunday so we didn’t have issues getting in,” Dan said. “But the reserve area is terrible, and it stinks.”
The Sedors said there was one hose that led to the single water source that was for all of the campers.
“We don’t know if we’re coming back,” Karen said. “There are two artists, Eric Church and Locash, and if they’re not there, we’re not coming back. We had three extra tickets, and we were not allowed to get a refund for them...”
Their children live in Manhattan, and they said they’re disappointed that they won’t be going back to Manhattan or Aggieville.
Several fans said they’ll miss the friends they’ve made at the event, citing that camping was half of the fun.
Other campers were a lot more explicit in their choice of words about the situation. One large group of campers said they had encountered a variety of problems.
“They told us we could set up on Sunday, but they didn’t have any electricity and water ‘til Wednesday even though they opened on Sunday,” John Edersole said. “We had no room to back out, and we had trouble backing it in and instead of helping us, people just got their chairs and watched us.”
The group said roads and campsites were extremely muddy, and someone was charging $350 to pull people’s vehicles out of the mud. More rain fell on Friday morning, adding to the swampy conditions.
Thursday’s performances included Clint Black and headliner Jake Owen. Music was set to continue Friday and Saturday with headliners Old Dominion and Jason Aldean, respectively.