Bend of the River Festival brings country music

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On Saturday, MSU Athletics and Kwik Trip collaborated to host the first Bend of the River Music Festival. With cornhole, vendors and live music, there was something for everyone.

Organizer Robyn James said MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman approached James and his business partner Jerry Braam in 2019 to host a festival on campus. The event was delayed due to Covid and Hockey Day Minnesota.

“It’s a kind of collaboration with [MSU Athletics] wanting to highlight campus and athletics and then our team coming to do something good for the community by raising money for high school and MSU athletics,” James said.

The idea for the name of the festival was born from the geographical location of the two rivers that meet and the desire to reach as many surrounding communities as possible.

“We wanted to reach many communities in the Bend of the River area. We wanted a name that would stick with us for a long time and something anyone in the River Valley community could call their own,” James said.

Planning for the event began in November 2021. While coordinating artists and vendors took nine months, James hopes to make the festival an annual event based on the outcome of the event.

“We hope to make it a mainstay in the community and maintain it year after year,” James said.

Juan Moreno was the winner of the competitive division of the cornhole contest. Moreno competed as part of Central Minnesota Cornhole, a St. Cloud-based organization that hosts cornhole tournaments in Minnesota. Moreno has been part of the group for three years.

“We started in 2020 and said ‘let’s go [group] go, then Covid hit. Since nothing was open, we waited a year to launch the competitions,” said Moreno.

While Moreno said he enjoys going out and meeting new people, his competitive streak hasn’t gone away. Moreno has been playing cornhole for nine years and training extensively for tournaments.

“I train 10 hours a week for tournaments. The sport is growing and I hope to improve,” said Moreno.

Throughout the festival, MSU athletes were on hand, signing autographs on posters. After the cornhole tournament, IV (Foreplay) was the first band of the night to perform. Artist Jason Nix followed soon after.

Priscilla Block, nominated for New Female Artist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACM), then took to the stage and performed her best-known song, “Thick Thighs.”

After her performance, MSU President Edward Inch, Kevin Buisman, and Stomper took the stage to receive the $50,000 check MSU Athletics received from the event. Local high schools raised $2,500 for their schools and event volunteers donated 350 hours of service.

As the sun set and the sky darkened, headliner Jimmie Allen performed his set. Allen was named New Artist of the Year at the Country Music Asscoaiton Awards and New Male Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards this year in March.

Best known for his song ‘Best Shot’, the Deleware local danced and sang late into the night which ended around 9.45pm.

With plenty of performances and fun to be had, the Bend of the River Festival brought the community together for a good cause.

Header photo: Jimmie Allen sings a song during the inaugural Bend of the River Festival at Blakslee Stadium on Saturday night. All proceeds from the event went to MSU athletics and area high school athletics programs. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Emma Johnson at [email protected]

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