VIDEO: Toby Keith headlines as Sunfest attendance passes 50,000 mark

Toby Keith with his trademark Red Solo Cup sings with the huge crowd. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Toby Keith with his trademark Red Solo Cup sings with the huge crowd. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Country-rocker Tim Hicks really gets the crowd going on Saturday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Country-rocker Tim Hicks really gets the crowd going on Saturday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Waterloo Revival warms up the main stage at Laketown Ranch on a Sunfest Saturday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Waterloo Revival warms up the main stage at Laketown Ranch on a Sunfest Saturday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Little Big Town take selfies using phones from their exuberant fans on Sunday night at Sunfest. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)Little Big Town take selfies using phones from their exuberant fans on Sunday night at Sunfest. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
VIDEO: Toby Keith headlines as Sunfest attendance passes 50,000 mark
Lively Madeline Merlo goes all out with her Motel Flamingo theme during her Sunday evening show. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)Lively Madeline Merlo goes all out with her Motel Flamingo theme during her Sunday evening show. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Canadian country star Corb Lund sings “Hurtin’ Albertan” on the mainstage at Laketown Ranch on Friday. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)Canadian country star Corb Lund sings “Hurtin’ Albertan” on the mainstage at Laketown Ranch on Friday. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Superstar Eric Church will headline Sunfest Sunday in 2018. (submitted)Superstar Eric Church will headline Sunfest Sunday in 2018. (submitted)

Fans flocked to Sunfest at Laketown Ranch in greater than ever numbers this year.

Over the four-day weekend, more than 50,000 guests attended, the music festival reported, with an average of 10,000 people watching the main stage show each night.

The campgrounds were almost sold out, with just under 50 campsites left on Friday morning.

“We are pleasantly surprised to see that Sunfest grew again this year. It’s great to know that after 17 years we are still attracting new guests while keeping our long-time fans happy,” said Greg Adams, owner of Wideglide Entertainment and Laketown Ranch, the purpose-built site that is the home to Sunfest Country Music Festival and more.

Organizers say they are “thrilled” with the way everything came together.

There were many highlights during the festival, with something special every day.

Thursday night, there was a marriage proposal and a line dance performance on stage during Washboard Union’s set, featuring a couple staying in the upper campgrounds at the vast site.

Friday, Brett Kissel got the crowd really going, especially with his trademark: singing ‘O Canada’. Afterwards he posted a video, thanking everyone for the experience, which he said “blew him and his band away”.

On Saturday, Tim Hick’s hard hitting country-rock got the crowd roaring, and then it was time for the big name: Toby Keith. Hearing him singing ‘Red Solo Cup’ with 15,000 fans was a memorable moment.

B.C.’s own Madeline Merlo stepped up with an exuberant set on Sunday evening, really engaging with the crowd.

Finally, the stage pit was jammed to bursting as Little Big Town offered what Sunfest organizers called “a visually and vocally stunning performance” that closed off the weekend on Sunday.

“We had some really diverse acts this year who each brought a different flavour and energy to the stage. There were some classic country songs, rock and roll covers and even a bit of hip hop,” Adams said.

In a big surprise, just before the Brett Kissel show Friday night, Sunfest announced that Eric Church will be the major headliner at Sunfest 2018.

The crowd went wild, cheering and jumping up and down; Church was obviously a popular choice with Sunfesters.

Organizers shared a bit about him afterwards, saying, “The three-time Country Music Association and six-time Academy of Country Music Award winner cemented his reputation as a maverick by releasing his 2015 album Mr. Misunderstood as a surprise, delivering it to fans before announcing its existence and putting it on sale.

“His current single, ‘Round Here Buzz’ follows his anti-hate single ‘Kill A Word’ which AXS called, ‘one of the most important singles’ Church has put out and the Grammy-nominated ‘Record Year,’ which Rolling Stone dubbed ‘the most moving moment’ on the widely lauded album.

Church’s 60-plus-city Holdin’ My Own Tour in 2017 was named the No. 1 most attended music tour in the world at the time of the tour by Pollstar.

No other headline acts were announced during Sunfest this year, although in the past there have often been two.

However, even by Sunday night, as the huge crowd gathered eagerly for the final main stage performers, Little Big Town, a roar went up as the face of Eric Church flashed on the big screens as the 2018 banner act. During the intervening two days, Facebook had been busy as exuberant fans prepared for next year.

Sunfest 2018 tickets are on sale for 2017 ticket holders now until Aug. 13. Public on-sale starts on Aug. 21, 2017 at 9 a.m. Tickets start at $249 for the weekend. For more information and tickets, go to www.sunfestconcerts.com.