Changes with COVID-19 have caused festival owners at Hypervibe LLC to file for bankruptcy and cancel two popular summer festivals. The announcement was made in early October when the Country USA and Rock USA concerts were declared completely canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns even though tickets were once considered postponed. These festivals are not expected to return anytime soon and may leave a lasting disappointing impact on Northeastern Wisconsin communities.
Country USA and Rock USA were major festivals and iconic summer events in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, held at Ford Festival Park. Starting in 1994, Country USA has been around for 25 years while Rock USA has been active for nine years, beginning in 2010. According to records from recent years, provided by Hypervibe Entertainment, Country USA 2018 hosted a total attendance of 137,500 fans. This means the average daily attendance was 27,500 per day, while Rock USA 2018 hosted 30,000 fans on average per day. 53% of attendees traveled from 11-75 miles away to attend both Oshkosh festivals. Famous musical artists at the festivals included country artists such as Keith Urban, Toby Keith, and Brad Paisley and rock artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses, and Avenged Sevenfold.
As many locals know, it can be hard to obtain tickets for the concerts because of their popularity throughout the Midwest. Patrons even travel across the country to come to the events. Both festivals brought in people from all over the state and country to see local and central headlining bands. There were many different versions of entrance passes. Guests had the options of general admission (the most popular), VIP, and reserved sections. In the last five years, RUSA and CUSA also added Pit Passes, which put guests right in front of the stage and made the event feel like a smaller and more intimate venue. Since so many people planned to attend the concerts, many patrons pre-ordered tickets for the 2020 concert that ended up being canceled. Without the revenue from this year’s events, the family who owned Hypervibe have announced they no longer possess the resources to continue these events in the future. This revenue came from festival merchandise, parking, campsite purchases, food and beverage services, as well as the extensive amounts of ticket sales. Patrons began to ask questions about refunds for the tickets they ordered but were met with a period of silence from this parent-company, Hypervibe. Very little information is currently available online about Hypervibe following these cancelations. Both event websites and the Hypervibe website have now been taken down from the internet, and contact information with Hypervibe has been disconnected. With no resources left to supply people with refunds for their tickets, Hypervibe was forced to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy this month to make an effort in getting refunds out to as many people as possible. The Country USA page on Facebook posted information to followers giving full details of their bankruptcy situation.
Music-lovers and performers came from around Wisconsin and sometimes even surrounding states to enjoy the weekends of live entertainment. Jared Blake, a country music singer from Nashville, Tennessee, performed at Country USA in 2015 and 2018. After taking fourth place on the hit reality competitive music television show, The Voice, in 2011 (the show’s first season), Blake was invited to perform at Ford Festival Park as an opening act for famous country music artists such as Lee Brice and Blake Shelton.
“I never thought in my career I would be playing in a place called Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but man, I sure loved it. The crowds I have played for in Wisconsin have been some of the most surprisingly fun that I’ve played for,” said Blake.
Jared also shared how COVID-19 has affected his life as a performer this year, with not only these festivals being postponed or canceled but also festivals in other states.
“It’s a shame festival such as this one are slowly being postponed and canceled around the country. I hope someone can take over the mantle moving forward, so traveling musicians like myself have stages across the country to travel to. Not to mention it’s great meeting people from local bands that get a chance to play on a big stage. I have music friends in Wisconsin that look forward to that festival specifically every year,” Blake explained.
Other festivals in the state have been postponed or canceled until further notice across Wisconsin’s state, including Country Fest, Summer Fest, Lifest, and Mile of Music.
Ryan Rickard, Logan Stae, Josh Yahr