Biggest Cowichan Sunfest ever begins

Tens of thousands of people from across Vancouver Island and beyond are gathering to hear some of country music’s biggest stars and enjoy the party of the year at Sunfest this weekend.

Cowichan’s biggest music event takes place at the Cowichan Exhibition grounds Aug. 1-3. According to Sunfest spokesperson Charlotte Fisher, there are still some tickets available both online at and at Canadian Tire in Duncan.

They are mostly single day tickets plus a few general admission weekend passes, but if you’re looking for those ones you’d better get a move on, she said Wednesday.

It’s no surprise that Sunfest is practically sold out.

Megastar Tim McGraw is coming Sunday to wind up the huge festival on a super special note. His name had people lining up for seats as soon as it was announced last fall.

Who else is hitting the big stage? How about Jake Owen, Dean Brody, and George Canyon?

There’s also Aaron Pritchett, Blackjack Billy, Cassadee Pope and Kira Isabella plus a whole lot more as action heats up every day on both the saloon stage and the main stage.

Fisher said Sunfest has been working hard to offer a better experience for everyone every year and for 2014, there’s lots of great new additions.

Everyone will be happy to hear that last year’s long lineups at the beer garden are a thing of the past, according to Fisher.

Some changes in provincial liquor regulations and new licences this year are helping ease that congestion, she said.

"This year, in our reserved section of seats, we have an open licence where people can take their drinks back to their seats. However, for the rest of the area, it is a beverage garden style, not open alcohol everywhere.

"Our capacity in our beverage garden has gone up 300 per cent this year. The problem last year was we were so limited by our liquor inspector who told us we could only have 1,000 people in there. That was the hold up. This year, we can have 4,000 people in the beverage garden. There shouldn’t be lineups," she said.

There are other changes, with one notable one affecting the camping areas.

"People should know that it’s a little bit different in the campground this year.

You’ve got to have a full weekend wristband to even be allowed in the campground. A single day ticket won’t get you into the campground," she said.

"Also, when you come into the site, everyone should remember it’s going to be really hot. So, bring a hat and bring a water bottle to fill at our water station, all that kind of good stuff.

"And, if you’re camping, leaving your dogs at home is probably advisable, too," she said.

For everyone on the huge site, Fisher advised watching for the non-profit groups selling 50/50 tickets all weekend.

"That will be great. And also the marketplace at Mellor Hall is new this year. It’s open from Friday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and up there they will get a chance to win a meet and greet with that night’s headliner every day. So, it’ll pay to go up there and enter that," she said.

"And we have a kids zone this year, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for children five to 12. So, if you are there with your kids they can do arts and crafts. There are going to be some water sports there, all sorts of good stuff."

Shuttle buses are running Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the arena side of the Island Savings Centre in Duncan as well as the parking lot by Fuller Lake Arena.

The charge is very reasonable and it gives riders a great chance to park away from Exhibition Park and drive right up to the gate.