Deneen Ramirez says Pleasant Harbor at Lake Pleasant officials have big goals for their new country- and western-themed festival, which is set to kick off this fall.
“We do want it to grow to be like a Country Thunder on the west side,” explained Ramirez, who, as the harbor’s events director, is involved in planning the inaugural festivities.
“We have all the camping space out there. It’s not as big as Country Thunder, but it’s that kind of idea, where we grow into a three-day event with big headliners.”
For the time being, however, the city of Peoria, Pleasant Habor and Dillon’s Bayou will partner for the first annual Peoria Country Fest from 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, October 19. Gates open at noon.
The music kicks off at 2 p.m. with Hillbilly Deluxe, followed by Chad Freeman at 4 p.m. Josh Roy will take the stage at 6 p.m., and the event will conclude with Rob West from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
And if that weren’t enough, Dillon’s will host other bands throughout the weekend, despite the main attraction being Saturday.
But Ramirez said Peoria Country Fest will be unlike Country Thunder in that it aims to include a variety of western-themed activities, taking it beyond a country music-focused festival.
“The whole big round event, where Country Thunder is just the music — and I know that’s a lot in itself — we want to have a little bit more than just music. We want a little bit more substance to our event.”
This includes, arguably most significantly, two live bull riding shows at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Roadrunner Restaurant and Saloon from New River will provide the shows, Ramirez said.
“It’s quite an experience, and they are right there right in front of you,” she added.
The event will also include “novelty vendors,” Ramirez said, like a cigar bar, a mechanical bull, and cowboy hat making. In addition to corn hole, the activities are billed as a “fan experience.”
But still in the works are plenty of food trucks, Ramirez said, where guests will have the opportunity to satisfy their appetites. Dillon’s, at the marina, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner all weekend.
“I got a whole variety (of food trucks), from barbecue to Hawaiian cuisine to dessert to funnel cakes,” she said. “I’m hoping to have about 10 to 15 trucks.”
And as for the beer garden, margaritas and, of course, beer will be a draw. Guests will get a wristband, and they’ll be allowed to walk the entire fenced property, beer in hand. Ramirez hopes to have sponsoring and participating breweries, though further details have yet to be worked out.
“We’ve been doing a lot more events lately,” Ramirez said. “Country is our go-to at the lake. Dylan’s has done Dukes and Boots at the lakes, and it’s been very successful, so we thought we would kind of grow it and make it a whole property event.”
Advance online tickets cost $15 per adult. At the gate, adult tickets will increase to $20. Children’s tickets cost $5.
Limited VIP tickets, priced at $45, include two complimentary drink tickets, one meal courtesy Dillon’s, and access to a special seating area with a dedicated cash bar.
Attendees must pay an extra $10 for access to park at Pleasant Harbor.
No coolers or outside alcohol will be permitted at the festival, though attendees can bring unopened plastic water bottles, lawn chairs and blankets.
“I have a feeling it’s probably going to be pretty good,” Ramirez guessed of ticket sales. “The live bull riding is going to be a huge draw, and that has a huge following.”
To pair with the festival, if desired, weekend camping will be available for either full hook-up campsites with electric, water, sewer and internet access; as well as dry camping. Pleasant Harbor RV Resort has showers, a convenience store, pool and clubhouse amenities. The harbor also offers water sports and lakeside activities including a water slide, boat, sail and Jet Ski rentals, flying, and kayak and paddle board rentals. For more information, visit pleasantharbor.com.
“Peoria Country Music Fest is going to showcase some of the best country music around at a one-of-a-kind location,” said Bridget Binsbacher, vice mayor of the city of Peoria. “We are so proud to have beautiful Lake Pleasant in our city with easy access and the perfect spot to kick up your heels for an entire weekend of entertainment and fun.”