A new country music festival in the town of Hamilton that could draw up to 30,000 spectators won preliminary approval Tuesday night from a committee of the La Crosse County Board.

Members of the Planning, Resources and Development Committee unanimously supported a conditional-use permit for Country Boom, a two- to three-day festival to be held on the former grounds of the Maple Grove Country Club.

The plan is to book 10 acts per day, including “top tier” country acts, said Jon Holthaus of Country Boom LLC, with plenty of space for camping and parking on the former golf course. The plan is to hold the event the second weekend in July, which next year would be July 13-15.

Jon Holthaus

Holthaus

“There’s definitely a market for it,” Holthaus said. “I think it could be a huge asset to the community.”

If the festival brought in 20,000 visitors, it could have an estimated $7.5 million impact on the local economy, according to A.J. Frels, executive director of the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Holthaus said it’s too soon to talk about who might get booked for the show. In fact, if the right mix of acts can’t be secured to get Country Boom started with a bang, Holthaus said the first Country Boom would have to wait until 2019.

“We want to do it right right out of the gate,” he said.

Although the festival would be held next door to a small residential subdivision, no objections were raised at Tuesday’s public hearing. County board member Tina Wehrs, who chairs the committee, credited the proactive approach taken by event organizers, who met with residents in advance of the hearing to address their concerns.

The property is owned by real estate developer Steve Nicolai, who has remodeled one of the country club buildings as a banquet hall. A member of the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Nicolai wants to use the rest of the property for “silent sports,” with trails for biking, hiking and a top-notch course for cross country meets.

While far from silent, Country Boom will give Nicolai’s vision for the property a boost. “My theory is excitement builds excitement,” Nicolai said.

Approvals from the sheriff’s department, the highway department and the full county board will be required before Country Boom can move ahead.

Other business

The committee recommended board approval for a 245-foot telecommunications tower to be erected by Bug Tussel Wireless in the town of Shelby on Darrell Oelke’s ridgetop property west of Skyline Drive. Wehrs cast the sole vote against the tower.

The committee tabled a conditional-use permit for Brian and Patricia Horstman to convert their barn at W3351 Horstman Road into an event center for weddings and other gatherings. The property is on the northern edge of the town of Barre, but all the roads leading to it are town of Hamilton roads. Hamilton Town Chairman Blaine Lee asked the committee to put off the vote to give the Horstmans the chance to make their case at next Tuesday’s Hamilton Town Board meeting.

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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