By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Hugoton’s Dirtona Raceway is known for its share of motor sports, but this Saturday night, the track in the Stevens County community will come alive with the sound of music.
The High Plains Music Fest will take center stage at Dirtona, and coordinator Jan Leonard said the event is about many other communities in addition to Hugoton.
“We’ve got it advertised clear up to Lamar, Scott City, Dodge, Liberal and Guymon,” he said. “There’s a lady that’s on our board that’s from Walsh. I was sitting beside her at the Alan Jackson concert (in Dodge City). We told her what we were trying to get going.”
Leonard said that person will bring in people from Walsh, Colo., and Springfield, Colo., and a fireworks company has been hired to bring an end to the eight-hour celebration.
“They’re going to come shoot off fireworks when Charlie Jenkins comes on stage,” he said. “We’re hoping we’ll get a pretty good show out of it.”
Jenkins is just one of six artists scheduled to perform throughout the evening, including Moscow’s Easton Hamlin, and Leonard said the music featured will be more than just country.
“Black Dutch Sioux out of Texas, they are a southern rock band,” he said. “We mixed it up. We thought ‘Let’s just do something different and not call it the High Plains Country Music Fest. Let’s call it the High Plains Music Fest. If we want to change it later on down the road, have a blues, we can still use our LLC for any type of music.”
Leonard promises the music fest will be something different for Southwest Kansas and the rest of the Five State area. He said, though, the event would not be possible without the long list of sponsors.
“Our sponsors helped out a bunch,” he said. “We couldn’t have done this all without the sponsors.”
Tickets for those 16 and older are $30. Children age 7 to 15 are $15, and 6 and younger get in free. Proceeds from the ticket sales and concession sales will go to three area charities, including Liberal’s Southwest Miracles.
“We’ve got Peace House over here,” Leonard said. “The American Cancer Society will definitely be one that gets it every year. We’re going to, hopefully, save some back for a bigger headliner next year. We just don’t know where we’re going to end up.”
Leonard said he is hoping the event will continue in the future, and if it does, the causes the music fest donates to would change with the exception of the ACS.
The High Plains Music Fest has even been named as one of the annual events of the National Wild Turkey Federation. NWTF will also host an auction during the evening, with items such as free trips to Canada for five days and guns.
“We’ll give those out afterwards,” Leonard said. “It’s just something different. We’re just throwing some different things into it. Instead of just having a concert, in between sets, you have a little auction.”
Leonard said with a wide variety of musical tastes in the area, the choice to include more than just country was simple.
“We just thought somebody might like southern rock, but some people would come and just want to listen to country,” he said. “It’ll still get them there, and hopefully, they’ll stay and watch some of the rest of it too. There’s red dirt country too.”
The Dirtona track will also be home to a 20 by 40-foot dance floor, made out of particle board, for those who want to kick up their heels while listening to the music fest’s sounds.
“We’re going to lay one layer of sheets down and the other sheets down crossways, screw them together,” Leonard said. “We’re going to put another layer on top and screw them down. It’s going to be a nice dance floor. For people that like to dance, they’re going to be able to go down on the dance floor.”
Leonard said the High Plains Music Fest is derived from a formula used many times in Texas.
“This has been done in Texas a bunch,” he said. “Why not try it here and let some other people see how some other states do some of their fundraisers or events?”
With many communities involved in the music fest, Leonard said the music fest’s board is trying to get partners from each of the towns as well as sponsors. This, he said, will allow for funding for charities in all of the towns.
“That’s the goal we’re looking at trying to do if we can do it,” he said.
While many towns are getting involved with the High Plains Music Fest, Leonard said most likely, the event will remain in Hugoton in future years.
“Once we get this thing set up, that’s what’s nice about using a race track,” he said. “It’s hard to find a place that’s got general admission. You’ve got a fenced in area. You’ve got a gate that people walk in. You’ve got restrooms. You’ve got grandstands.”
Along with a concession stand, there will likewise be a beer garden at the event.
“They can take the beer up in the stands, but we’re also going to have a non-alcohol section too,” Leonard said.
The coordinator said tickets will be sold to those wishing to buy beer or food.
“We take a percentage out of the concessions,” he said. “You’ve got to go buy tokens to get anything inside once you’re inside.”
Gates for the High Plains Music Fest will open at 2 p.m. Saturday at Dirtona. Black Dutch Sioux will take the stage at 4 p.m., with other bands to follow about every hour or so. Charley Jenkins is scheduled to perform around 10:30 p.m., followed by the fireworks celebration.
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