Officials are moving this year’s 24th-annual Country Stampede to Topeka because of Tuttle Creek Lake flooding.
“Safety is our main concern,” Stampede President Wayne Rouse said.
The country music festival set to begin June 20 will be held at Heartland Motorsports Park, 7530 SW Topeka Blvd.
Tuttle Creek State Park, where it’s typically held, likely won’t be accessible because officials have blocked off a road that leads to the park because of potential for additional flooding.
At noon Friday, the lake elevation was 1,135.82 feet above sea level, the second-highest level of its existence.
Rouse said this will be a temporary move for this year. The festival intends to return to Manhattan in 2020.
“The severe weather prompted us to partner with the good folks over at Heartland Motorsports in Topeka, just 45 minutes away, to ensure all of our concertgoers will be out of harm’s way,” Rouse said.
He said staff waited until the “last possible minute” to move the event.
“A lot of thought went into it, until it became apparent that it could change at any time, then we really began to look into it,” he said. “Topeka’s the perfect fit, though. We’ll mirror what we do here. Everything will be about the same.”
Rouse said his staff will work with the HMP staff to get the layout as close as possible to the event traditionally held at Tuttle Creek State Park.
People will camp at the park, Rouse said. The move-in schedule will still be the same.
“All the amenities people expect with Stampede will still be there,” he said. “The layout will be as much the same as it can be, the stage, the Jumbotrons. It’s a great facility for this.”
Although it was a difficult decision, Rouse said, he had support and a constant line of communication.
“The Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Kansas State Park and Corps have been extremely helpful in helping us out,” he said. “In the state of Kansas, it can be a tough call with the weather changing, but they’ve been keeping us informed.”
Rouse said he worked closely with the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau and that bureau director Karen Hibbard was instrumental in the move.
Hibbard said the move is not ideal for any of the businesses in Manhattan who look forward to the revenue, but the show had to continue.
“Rain or shine, for 24 years Stampede has to happen regardless,” she said. “It’s been a huge economic engine for Manhattan. It puts us on the country music fans’ maps, and it puts us on their mind about returning when it’s not so packed.”
She said it’s a huge loss for it to be gone this year, but the fan experience was too important for the event not to continue. She said everyone is hopeful that there is loyalty from fans about staying and commuting to the event.
“There is an ease of access there, since it’s only a 45-minute drive, and it’s interstate the whole way,” she said. “From talking with some of the hotel owners, we know a lot of fans stay at the same property every year because they enjoy their stay and it makes sense for them logistically. … It’s too early to know what the decisions are going to be, but we hope they’ll stay.”
Hibbard praised the Country Stampede staff for their work in getting the event moved so quickly.
Jason Aldean, Old Dominion and Jake Owen will still headline the event. Tickets are still available, and all tickets purchased will be honored in Topeka.
Heartland Motorsports Park is slated to host the Sports Car Club of America national event the same weekend.