Hodag Country Music Festival Opens Campground Gates

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The annual Hodag Country Music Festival kicks off today in Rhinelander. It's the oldest music festival in the state, and the second oldest in the U.S.

Angie LeRoy and Ruth Theys drive two hours from Green Bay every year for the festival. Both say they love everything about it.

"We come back every year because the people, the fun, the dancing, the entertainment. It's just awesome," said Theys.

Theys said her favorite performer is Neal McCoy, and last year she even had a chance to meet him.

"Neal McCoy, that tops the whole thing," said LeRoy, "He's blowing down the road over there before he gets here."

The camp grounds opened Saturday at 6 a.m., and some Hodag enthusiasts were parked outside as early as yesterday waiting to get in.

Gerry Van Harpen, the festival coordinator, said, "We have great entertainment. We have a picture line. What's not to love?"

Tens of thousands of people come out to Rhinelander every year for Hodag, and with that much traffic in a town of normally 7,000, things can get pretty hectic.

In fact, downtown Rhinelander usually gets a lot of action during the festival, and depending on the business, it can bring in extra customers.

"The Hodag Country Fest is fantastic for downtown Rhinelander," said Dennis Hooker, owner of Pat's Tavern, "Especially our bar, you know, being that we're on the main street we do have a lot of repeat customers over the years."

Hooker said during festival week, Friday and Saturday nights are usually slow. So he likes to close up early and run down to the festival and watch a little country music himself.

Performances kick off Thursday with a group called Marty's Party. Other Artists include Kenny Rogers, Josh Turner and Darius Rutgers.

And if you're thinking about about joining the fun, tickets are still available. You can buy one at the gate when you get there. Prices start at $65 per day, and $130 for the entire week.

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