The Wild Hare Music Festival was an unforgettable experience for the sellout and near-sellout crowds in attendance at last year’s iteration at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby.
And organizers were validated when the event was named Music Festival of the Year in the Ovation Awards at the Oregon Festivals and Events Association conference in Seaside last weekend.
“Obviously this doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” the festival said in the announcement on its Facebook page. “Credit due not only to Joan Monen, whose vision brought this festival to be, co-owner Jason Fellman, True West, and the rest of the WHMF team, but also to you, the music fans who supported us. Thanks for buying tickets and thanks for talking about what an amazing experience it was.”
Reached this week, Fellman said it all started with Monen, his partner in not only the Wild Hare Music Festival but its older sister festival, Harefest.
He credited Monen for both the original idea for what was then known as the Wild Hare County Festival, and its focus on the red dirt genre of country music.
“I’ve got to give it to Joan,” he told the Current. “She came to me years ago and said, ‘This is the genre we should be doing,’ and she was totally right. And to have such a magical festival last year, the first-ever headlining event for Zach Bryan, it’s just incredible.”
Fellman, who attended the conference last weekend along with Harefest and Wild Hare Music Festival General Manager Kyle Lang, admitted to being thunderstruck by the award.
“I was surprised, because there are so many really good festivals in Oregon,” he said. “And, though, ultimately, it’s not your goal when you produce a festival to win an award, it’s cool to be recognized for something that we and a lot of people worked really hard on.”
Though Harefest, the so-called “Mother of All Tribute Band Festivals” is barreling full steam ahead for its 11th edition at the Canby fairgrounds this summer, the team did announce late last year that Wild Hare Music Festival will not be returning due to events outside their control.
The festival’s Facebook post announcing the award called its future “unclear at best.” Fellman said he couldn’t go into detail.
“There was no falling out between anyone or anything like that,” he said. “The situation is just such that it makes it unrealistic for us to be successful. And we’re certainly not giving up on the genre, but the Wild Hare Music Festival as it was, we can’t do that right now.”
For now, the team is focused on Harefest 11, which will return to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds on July 14 and 15, and the second iteration of Flannel Fest, a ’90s-themed tribute band festival at the Grant County Fairgrounds in Moses Lake, Washington.
Fellman said the team is actively exploring other markets and areas and expects to announce some major new events in late 2024 or 2025.
“We’re not dead yet, I’ll leave it at that,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve got some really special things in the works.”
Tickets and information for Harefest 11 are available online at harefest.com.
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