Game space

Red River Valley Fair ups the grandstand game by doubling budget to $1.6M for artists – InForum

WEST FARGO — Cody Cashman, CEO of the Red River Valley Fair Association, doesn’t mince words when talking about this year’s grandstand performers.

“This is by far the best lineup we’ve ever had,” he says of the event, which opens Friday, July 8 and runs through July 17.

He launches the headliners with enthusiasm: Tim McGraw, 3 Doors Down, Jason Derulo, for King and Country, Tesla and many others.

So what’s the secret to having your best lineup ever?

“We’re spending a lot more money,” he says.

Cashman lives up to his name and puts his money — well, RRVF money — where his mouth is, investing a record $1.6 million in booking acts for this year. The budget has more than doubled from $750,000 last year.

“To get the biggest acts, you have to pay for it. It’s the only way to do it,” he says.

3 Doors Down headlines the first night of the Red River Valley Fair.

Contribution / Red River Valley Fair

Cashman started in May 2020 and one of his first official decisions was to cancel this year’s event due to COVID.

Although he wasn’t drawing crowds that year, he listened to what people wanted. The recurring complaint the fair faced in recent years was that the organizers did not bring in big names.
His answer to the problem: start charging for concerts.

In 2019 and previous years, grandstand shows were free with door entry. That year, the entertainment budget was between $300,000 and $350,000, Cashman says. In 2021, the RRVF Board of Directors more than doubled the budget to $750,000, and again this year the investment more than doubled, to $1.6 million.

Cashman won’t say how much of that $1.6 million will go to Tim McGraw, but he did say the singer was the highest-paid actor on this year’s bill.

King & Country’s Luke and Joel Smallbone.

Contributed / PFA Media

The investment seems to pay off. Last year, country singer Chris Young was the biggest draw, selling around 7,500 tickets. Last week, with more than 10 days until the show, McGraw had already sold more tickets than that, and Cashman expected him to sell out the grandstand space of around 13,000.

Cashman says attendance records for shows prior to 2021 are unreliable because there were no tickets to count.

Not bad for a show Cashman was unsure of landing. Initially, the RRVF was supposed to get Toby Keith, but health issues kept the country star from hitting the road.

“He doesn’t get much bigger than Tim McGraw,” Cashman says. “He sings. He acts. He’s as big as he can get.

The last time Tim McGraw performed at the Red River Valley Fair was in 1998 and he had just released “One of These Days,” his 14th Top 10 country hit.

If he was a bonafide star, then now, 24 years later, he’s a legend. Since then, he’s continued his dominance of country music radio with 38 more Top 10 hits and more awards than he could fit under his wide-brimmed hat. In 2016 he headlined WE Fest and in 2017 he and his wife, singer Faith Hill, performed at the Fargodome.

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed on August 24, 2017 at the Fargodome during their Soul 2 Soul Tour.  Picture from forum folder
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed on August 24, 2017 at the Fargodome during their Soul 2 Soul Tour.

Picture from forum folder

Cashman says country shows always do better. McGraw, Walker Hayes, Neal McCoy and the double billing of Parmalee and Maddie & Tae will bring some Nashville flair this year. Rock concerts are also a big draw, with Tesla and Vixen playing on July 12 and Dokken, Winger, Lita Ford, Sweet and SteelHeart closing the fair on July 17. Still, he didn’t want the lineup to be all twang and bang.

“We wanted diversity and to have a bit of everything,” he says, noting pop singer and TikTok star Jason Derulo and contemporary King & Country Christian actor. He adds that he wanted to bring in a kid-friendly concert and a comedian.

“Our goal was to put the fair on the map and make sure people didn’t want to miss it,” he says.

While he’s counting on McGraw to sell 13,000 tickets, he hopes the other shows will attract 4,000 fans each.

McCoy’s show on July 13 is the only free concert with admission this year to honor past and present members of the armed forces.

Jason Derulo.jpg
Pop singer Jason Derulo.

Contributed/Special to the Forum

“If people don’t come out and support these shows, we won’t keep doing them,” he says.

Although the fair is a non-profit organization, the concerts should be run like a business.

“We even get into concerts if we’re lucky,” he says, noting that tickets usually only cover performers and production costs.

Although this year’s fair isn’t even open yet, he already has offers for 2023 and hopes to announce a big show before McGraw takes the stage on Saturday and announce the full lineup by the end of the year.

He says people keep asking for Garth Brooks, but “it’s never going to happen”.

He won’t say which numbers he’s pitching for, but says next year’s lineup will be even more exciting as the council has expanded its budget to $2.6 million.

“The caliber of acts will only be better,” he says.

What: Red River Valley Fair
When: From Friday July 9 to July 17
Where: Red River Valley Fairgrounds, West Fargo

  • July 8: 3-door lower ($30)
  • July 9th : Tim McGraw ($55 to $85)
  • July 10: Walker Hayes ($35)
  • 11 July : Monster Trucks ($12 to $20)
  • July 12: Tesla and Vixen ($35)
  • July 13: Neal McCoy (free with door entry)
  • July 14th : for King & Country ($30)
  • July 15th : Jason Derulo ($40)
  • July 16: Parmalee, Maddie & Tae and Larry Fleet ($35)
  • July 17: Rock the Valley with Dokken & Lynch Reunion Tour, Wnger, Lita Ford, Sweet and Steelheart ($35)

Doors open at 6 p.m. and shows start at 8 p.m. (except Tim McGraw, doors at 5 p.m.); monster truck portal at 5:30 p.m. and show at 7:30 p.m.; and Rock the Valley, doors at 1 p.m. and music at 2 p.m.