Billie Jo Aasen is hardly the first person to take a look around the Deming Log Show Fairgrounds and become inspired. After all, the combination indoor-outdoor concert venue/campsite/cookout spot has played host to many events during its half-century-plus history, from the annual logging show from which the venue derives its name to the yearly Oktoberfest celebration where we all stop pretending we don’t know how to polka.
Aasen isn’t even the first person to suss out the Log Show Fairgrounds with an event of the musical kind in mind—the Subdued Stringband Jamboree beat her to that punch more than a decade ago. But it could be argued that where others dreamed first, Aasen dreamed biggest. And the end result of all this dreaming—not to mention months of unceasing hard work and effort—is the East 542 Music Festival, which will take place Sept. 14-15.
And, it seems, Aasen possesses the unique ability to imbue others with her vision, which has resulted in a lineup for her first festival at the fairgrounds that includes multi-platinum artists, award winners and chart-toppers. Between them, the roster of bands and musicians who will descend on Deming have sold millions of albums and won an impressive number of professional accolades—proof they’re no strangers when it comes to showing audiences a good time.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to see Lonestar—yes, that Lonestar, the one that’s sold more than 6.5 million albums and achieved massive crossover success with their song “Amazed”—with its original lineup, Deming is the place for you. Similarly, if you’d like to see Sawyer Brown, Dr. Hook and Ray Sawyer, Crystal Shawanda, Juice Newton (yes, the “Queen of Hearts” herself), Aaron Pritchett, and many more, all you’ll have to do is point yourself east up State Route 542, and drive until you hit the Deming Log Show Fairgrounds, where you will be rewarded with the aforementioned musicians, as well as treated to a tasty barbecue dinner, a ride on a mechanical bull (as much fun for spectators as it is for participators), monster truck rides, an antique car show and an exhibition of the logging arts for which the fairgrounds are famous. And that’s not even all.
To figure out how the big dream of the East 542 Fest became a big reality, we talked to Aasen, who shed some light on the process.
Cascadia Weekly: Where’d the idea for such a big festival come from, and what made you think you could pull it off?
Aasen: A festival like this has been a dream of mine for years. I have been involved in the music industry both as a performer and in a business capacity. I have been a singer since I was a young adolescent, and through my years of singing and touring I have had the pleasure of building priceless relationships with well-respected music industry professionals and insiders. Through these relationships, many have taken me under their wing and they have taught me the ins and outs of the industry. What they really gave me is the support and education I needed to create a festival of this caliber… Back in November my business partner introduced me to the Deming log show grounds, and I fell in love. Once we started the planning, the branding and the booking of our artists, people really started getting excited, and so did we. In all reality, building a festival is a process and it may take years to build “the dream,” but that is something we are here to build—both a company and a community. The support of the community has been overwhelming through both sponsors and our near 200 volunteers. This support is priceless.
CW: You’ve got some pretty big-deal artists on this roster. How’d you lure them to play a venue in what must be, to them, the middle of nowhere?”
A: Well, let’s be honest: They are down-to-earth country artists and enjoy playing for crowds no matter where they are. The Deming Log Show grounds are one of the most beautiful and festival-friendly grounds we have ever come across. The show grounds have plumbing, camping, kitchens and seating, which is more than I can say for most outdoor venues. We are not exactly roughing it.
There is a real process when it comes to hiring entertainment. We wanted bands that people could sing along to regardless if they are country lovers or not. Over and above, we have a huge beer garden with its own stage, an after-hours party, mechanical bull riding, an antique car show, monster truck rides for charity, and a few other little surprises up our sleeves that you’ll have to attend to find out. East 542 is the last festival of the year and will be the party of the summer.
CW: It seems there’s more to 542 East than just music. There appears to be a definite give-back-to-the-community ethos. Explain why it’s important to have a music festival that’s about a bit more than just the music.
A: It is important to us to be about the event as a whole and not just the music. We are sponsoring the Summit to Sound Search and Rescue, the Deming youth baseball association, a motocross team, the girls high-school basketball team and the local food bank. Through 50/50 draws, after-party entrance fee, the pancake breakfast and the BBQ pit, we hope to raise a significant amount. A really fun thing we are doing is the monster truck rides for charity. Grab your significant other and give them a real good scare by placing them in the passenger seat of a monster truck! Make them ride around for a good cause! We also encourage anyone coming to the show to bring a canned food item for the food bank. A box will be placed at the entrance gate and the food will be delivered at the end of the festival. The kids are back in school and this is chance to really let loose while giving back.
CW: Now that 542 East is upon us, looking back on the journey from idea to execution, what have you learned? And, of course, will it be a yearly event?
A: There are surprises daily and we are learning by the minute. It is truly encouraging to see enthusiasm and excitement of the artists, the sponsors, the volunteers, and the daily involvement from the community. We have a five-year contract with the Log Show grounds with option to renew—we are here to stay!!
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