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Paynesville Press - July 2, 2003

Cornstalk set for Regal on July 18-19

By Michael Jacobson

Don Driggs bought the County Line Bar in Regal because of Cornstalk. Driggs, who booked bands while attending community college in Willmar, said music gets in your blood.

Driggs, originally from Marshall, spent ten years in the music business, handling tours or booking The Guess Who, The Beach Boys, John Denver, Linda Rondstadt, and Hank Williams Jr., among others. Then he spent 20 years in real estate in the Twin Cities, specializing in the Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Uptown areas of Minneapolis.

When he saw an advertisement for the County Line Bar last fall, Driggs came and checked out the place...and bought the bar, which has hosted Cornstalk for the past 15 years. His prime motivation was to be involved with live music again.

It has been 15 years since Johnny Cash came to Regal in 1989 and started Cornstalk. Cash even gave the festival its name, saying New York has its Woodstock and Regal has its Cornstalk, said Driggs.

The festival has been held annually since 1989, except for 1998.

A festival was almost not held in Regal this year. Driggs is being challenged in court for ownership of the name to the festival. He did not learn until March that the court would not issue an injunction against him, allowing him to use the name Cornstalk this year.

Driggs said he always thought it was clear that he owned the name Cornstalk and that he was surprised to hear rumors that the festival would not be held in Regal this year. But, when he learned of the court decision not to issue an injunction, it left him precious little time to hire acts for this year.

Driggs said he uses a simple rule to hire bands: "Would I like to hear them?"

At the top of his list was Johnny Cash. That's because Driggs has heard hundreds of Johnny Cash stories since purchasing the County Line. But due to Cash's health and the recent loss of his wife, booking him proved impossible.

Driggs said he will keep trying to bring Cash back to Regal, but it may not be possible.

Along with Cash, Driggs credits previous bar owners Mike Kampsen for starting the music festival and Jerry Vlamninck for reviving the festival in 1999. Last year, attendance at Cornstalk was 20,000 - 8,000 on Friday night and 12,000 on Saturday night.

Cornstalk will be held in Regal on Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19. Once again, camping will be available, with the gates opening on Thursday at noon.

This year, music will start on Friday and Saturday at noon with a lineup of eight regional bands. The national acts start at 4 p.m.

On Friday, the lineup is Doc Holiday at 4 p.m., PinMonkey at 6 p.m., Johnny Rivers at 8 p.m., and The Charlie Daniels Band at 10 p.m.

On Saturday, the lineup is Mila Mason at 4 p.m., John Conlee at 6 p.m., Mel Tillis at 8 p.m., and Leon Russell at 10 p.m.

Ticket prices are $35 per night for general admission and $35 for camping. Reserved seating is $75 per night or $125 for both nights. Tickets are available at 1-877-550-CORN or at

Another change this year is that the festival is called Cornstalk Fest 2003, with no country in the title. Driggs tried to get a variety of artists, ranging from up-and-coming country acts like PinMonkey and Mila Mason to country legends like Mel Tillis and The Charlie Daniels Band, while also having some other styles in Johnny Rivers and Leon Russell. John Conlee, Driggs said, was the most requested performer at Cornstalk in 2001.

Driggs, who has been amazed and grateful for all the help that various people have offered to get Cornstalk running again, said all Regal needs is good weather and good crowds, because he knows they are going to have great music again.

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