Now they want you to come.
Here's everything you need to know about the latest attempt to bring a major music festival to the bush, the Grand Rock Music Festival slated for June 28-30 in the heart of Lake Winnipeg's Eastern Beaches cottage country.
What's this? Another music festival?
You bet. Grand Rock is a three-day outdoor show at the Grand Beach Entertainment Centre, an ampitheatre and campground in the R.M. of Alexander.
The RM of what?
That would be the area southeast of Grand Beach, on the east side of Hwy. 59. The entertainment centre is located on a forested slope called Balsam Hill, a section of which has been carved into a sandy ampitheatre and a campground with room for up to 8,000 people.
Wait a sec. Isn't that where all those festivals got cancelled last year?
Yep. Last year was a disaster. In retrospect, though, that was a good thing.
The entertainment centre's majority owner, a construction company guy named Lawrence Hadiken, took an extra year to plow another $500,000 into the $5-million site and handed over the operation to people who appear to know what they're doing.
He hired Kim Sigurdson, a former exec with waste giant BFI, to manage the site, which was then leased out for the weekend to Grand Rock Entertainment, a new company run by Winnipeg showbiz impresario Gilles Paquin and businessman Jeff Lester.
They found Peter Kaminski, a concert-planning veteran who's worked on Lilith Fair and The Warped Tour, to handle logistics at the site. The plan is to avoid the organizational chaos that usually bogs down first-year outdoor music festivals.
But aren't these festivals tough to pull off?
Incredibly tough. The Manitoba countryside is littered with the carcasses of failed outdoor events, including Shakin' The Lake, the World Next Door Festival, the End of the World Music Festival and even the initially strong Sunfest and Classic Rock Weekend.
Grand Rock's first-year goal is relatively modest: It needs about 4,000 paying customers each day to break even. According to Paquin and Sigurdson, the big plan is to run a festival smooth enough to spur the kind of positive word-of-mouth that will build up bigger crowds -- and possibly more events -- next year.
A concert's only as big as its biggest band. Who's playing?
The lineup is solid, with Great Big Sea headlining a roots-rock show on Saturday, Matthew Good topping a Canadian rock night on Sunday and Sum 41 capping off a punk and punk-pop show on Monday.
HERE'S THE ENTIRE LINEUP FOR THE WEEKEND
SATURDAY, JUNE 28
Great Big Sea (11 p.m.): Direct from St. John's, Nfld, this Celtic pop band is an outdoor-festival staple in Manitoba.
The Watchmen (9:30 p.m.): The first local performance in a year by the Winnipeg-born rock band.
Sarah Harmer (8 p.m.): Expect to hear a preview of new material from the critically acclaimed Kingston folk-pop singer-songwriter.
Lucky Dube (6:30 p.m.): South Africa's greatest reggae artist.
Skavenjah (5 p.m.): Ska from Regina.
Derek Miller (3:30 p.m.): Miller, from the Six Nations reserve in Ontario, is this year's Juno Award-winner for best music of Aboriginal Canada.
Mood Ruff (3 p.m.): Not just a Winnipeg hip-hop outfit, but a gifted comic talent which has been hired to host the Grand Rock show all weekend.
SUNDAY, JUNE 29
Matthew Good (11 p.m.): Vancouver rock singer Good sold out three consecutive shows at The Colosseum in late March and early April.
Bif Naked (9:30 p.m.): The Winnipeg-raised vocalist plays a homecoming show just days after the release of her new greatest-hits package, Essentially Naked.
Mother Earth (8 p.m.): More veteran rock from Jag Tanna and company.
Tegan & Sara (6:45 p.m.): A twin-sister act from Calgary, now with a full rock band.
The Harlots (5:30): The latest in a long line of straight-ahead Winnipeg rock bands.
Perfect Day (4:15 p.m.): A Vancouver pop band.
Inward Eye (3 p.m.): A young Winnipeg rock band.
MONDAY, JUNE 30
Sum 41 (9:30 p.m.): Canada's reigning punk-pop band was brilliant at The Burt in May.
The Ataris (7:45 p.m.): Punk rock from Santa Barbara, Calif.
Treble Charger (6:15 p.m.): Lead singer Greig Nori is the man with the Midas touch, as he manages Sum 41 and leads Toronto Treble Charger into its second decade.
Dropkick Murphys (4:45 p.m.): Celtic punk -- with bagpipes! -- from Boston.
Not By Choice (3:15 p.m.): Another band from Sum 41's hometown, Ajax.
Burnthe8Track (2:30 p.m.): Winnipeg's sole representation at Monday's show.
The Undecided (2 p.m.): The punk-pop pride of Steinbach, Man.
Not bad. How much is this going to cost?
That depends on how much you see. Weekend passes are $129.50, while day passes are $49.50 (for Saturday and Sunday) and $54.50 (Monday). Campsites serving up to four people are another $50.
You don't have to camp out to see the show. All tickets are on sale at Select-A-Seat, 780-7328 or www.selectaseat.mb.ca.
OK. How do I get there?
That's easy. Take Highway 59 north from Winnipeg. After about an hour, the highway briefly widens to three lanes as it ascends a small hill. Take the first right after that, at Rd. 102 North, and you're at the Grand Beach Entertainment Centre.
The site developers have bulldozed a "marshalling area" for up to 600 vehicles entering the festival, which they hope will cut down on traffic congestion on Highway 59.
I have a cottage at Grand/Victoria/Lester/Albert/Hillside Beach. Can I still get there?
There shouldn't be a problem, as the RCMP have agreed to direct traffic at the corner of 59 and 102. But you should expect reduced speeds on that stretch of highway and heavier than usual traffic when the concerts let out each night.
An alternate route for Grand Beach-area cottagers heading north is PR 500, a gravel road which leaves Highway 59 at the Beaconia turn-off and joins up with Highway 12 near Grand Beach's East Gate.
Cottagers heading further north to Victoria, Lester, Hillside, Albert and Traverse Bay who don't mind a scenic drive can also use PR 500. Just turn right when it ends at Highway 12 and then left at Fey Road to reconnect to Highway 59 at Wimpy's Corner.