There's country music, and then there's wine country music. This Saturday gates open to the Country Summer Music Festival, Northern California’s biggest country music festival and Sonoma County’s biggest party, June 15-17 at the Sonoma County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa. There you will find wine country country music.
But with the genre on the move — currently expanding both stylistically and in terms of mass-market appeal — this year’s lineup will break from the tried-and-true mold ever so slightly, looking to highlight some of the country’s new blood. Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town and Toby Keith headline the 5th annual festival with top new country artists, such as Maren Morris, Granger Smith and Joe Nichols also performing on the Chevy Silverado Stage.
Country listeners still rely on terrestrial radio more than others to get their tunes (think Santa Rosa’s own Froggy 92.9 FM), so radio relevance is always a factor in designing the lineup. And it’s not like Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town and Toby Keith need to be invited every time, although Morris is a solid choice.
Organizers were likely looking forward in a genre that is still gaining market share and should be applauded for highlighting Granger Smith and Joe Nichols, who both scored odds-busting breakout hits. Still, they could have invited up and coming stars like Caroline Jones or Lindsay Ell, authentic creative powerhouses who make pop-country look good to the very fans the genre is courting. (Ell, it should be noted is performing on the smaller stage at the event). Not doing so would suggest that once again, the church of country music has still yet to undergo its true radical reformation.
While great music is the main attraction, Country Summer also features shopping, experiential activities, a variety of culinary delights and an array of libations; from Sonoma County craft beers and microbrews, to wine and spirits at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Garden and the Jack Daniel’s Saloon.
Last year, the festival attracted 30,000 fans from 34 states and four countries. More festival attendees are coming in from out-of-town this year – 55 percent are coming from outside Sonoma County, compared to 51 percent in 2017. Since the inaugural festival in 2014, Country Summer has grown exponentially to become a nationally recognized destination country music spectacular smack dab in the heart of Wine Country.
With a chicken-fried spirit, and a strong line-up Country Summer in Santa Rosa is an ideal way to celebrate country music in the wine country.
For more Country Summer Music Festival information go to the Visit Santa Rosa events page.