A dental assistant by day, West Salem’s Dawn Wehling also has a once-a-year Riverfest job that some might consider glamorous. Wehling — who works at Maplewood Dental in Onalaska and is owner of Sports Clips in Onalaska with her husband, Cody — is a “runner” for the headlining act at Riverfest.
This year that was Australian singer, songwriter and actor Rick Springfield and his band. A couple years ago it was the Spin Doctors.
Wehling explained that a runner does pretty much anything the main act wants. “If they need to go somewhere, have something picked up or have a request for something —that type of thing,” Wehling said.
Since Wehling — who grew up in the Green Bay area — was a big fan of Rick Springfield when she was younger, she was pretty excited about being his helper while he was in La Crosse on July 2.
Wehling was supposed to pick the band up at the La Crosse airport, but the flight times were delayed and changed three times. When the flight finally did arrive, Wehling was surprised to find Springfield the only band member on it.
“I asked him if he usually flew alone and he said, no, it was because of all the flight changes,” Wehling said. The rest of the band arrived on a later flight.
At any rate, Wehling picked Springfield up at the airport at 3 in the afternoon, checked him into his hotel and then went back to Riverfest for a short while. Then, after a call from Springfield’s manager, she went back to the hotel to pick Springfield up for the 5 p.m. sound check at Riverside Park.
After that, she was actually able to spend a little time with Springfield before his 9 p.m. show as she took him to the Freight House for dinner.
“He seemed very nice,” Wehling said. “He was pretty down to earth and very devoted to his fans. At dinner someone asked to take a picture with him and he didn’t seem put out at all.”
After dinner, Springfield and the band returned to the hotel to change for the performance, then Springfield had to be taken back to Riverside for a “meet and greet” prior to his show. Wehling did all this shuttling in a 15-passenger van specially brought in from the Twin Cities.
“I think I was more worried about driving that van than meeting the band!” Wehling said.
During Springfield’s performance, Wehling and her husband — who used to be on the board of directors for Riverfest and still helps book its musical acts — were able to watch while standing near the stage.
Afterward, the band manager asked Wehling if there were anywhere they could go to have a glass of wine and chill out.
Earlier Wehling learned that the band was in the midst of a grueling four-week tour, but since their flight out of La Crosse wasn’t until 1:30 the next afternoon, they would have the rare opportunity to sleep in on Thursday morning.
Although it was getting late, Wehling called the Waterfront and asked whether the band would be able to come over there.
“They told me that they were closing but they’d stay open just for us, so I took them over there after the show,” Wehling said.
The next day Wehling took the band to the airport so they could fly out to the East Coast for performances in Atlantic City and New York. During all this shuttling back and forth, Wehling had been so busy that she’d almost forgotten to get a picture of herself with Springfield. That oversight was finally taken care of right at the airport before the band left.
Wehling said that she had more interaction with Springfield and his band than she did with the Spin Doctors. “They were really nice, too,” Wehling said, “but their manager was kind of a jerk.”
All in all, Wehling was happy she got to see Springfield and the band up close, if only for a day and under rather hectic circumstances.
“It probably wouldn’t be that exciting for most people, but it was for me!” she said.
“It probably wouldn’t be that exciting for most people, but it was for me!” Dawn Wehling, on being a runner for Rick Springfield
"It probably wouldn't be that exciting for most people, but it was for me!"
Dawn Wehling, on being a runner for Rick Springfield