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Hinterland announces huge headliners for a smaller, COVID-conscious festival

Hinterland 2021

St. Charles Amphitheatre, St. Charles -- Aug. 6-8


Iowans gather in St. Charles for Hinterland Music Festival, Aug. 4, 2019. — Sophie McClatchey/Little Village

The same day Bonnaroo — one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in the country, set in Tennessee — announced the Avett Brothers would be headlining their Concerts on the Farm series this summer, Iowa’s own farm-based fest declared they’d snagged the powerhouse folk-rock group as well.

The Avett Brothers, Leon Bridges, Tyler Childers, Old Crow Medicine Show (who played at the inaugural Hinterland in 2015), Khruangbin, Black Pumas, Tanya Tucker and 17 other established and rising stars in the country, rock and Americana music scene are slated to perform at the 2021 Hinterland Festival in St. Charles, Iowa, Aug. 6-8.

Last year’s festival was canceled in late May when it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic would remain a public health crisis through August and beyond. Many of the artists from the 2020 line-up have committed to performing this year instead; Avett Brothers replaces Of Monsters and Men among the major headliners.

Organizers say the return of Hinterland this summer after last year’s cancellation will be a happy one, but that this sixth iteration will have new safety and social distancing rules.

“While this year’s festival will look different, we are ecstatic at the thought of bringing you the joy of live music again,” reads the Hinterland website.

We’ve redesigned Hinterland to be socially distanced with reduced attendance and guidelines in place to make it a safe, responsible experience for everyone involved.

These protocols are based on the COVID-19 infection levels and vaccination rates we are experiencing right now. If those variables change and guidance from the CDC, state and local health departments are adjusted, we will reexamine the capacity restrictions and procedures.

Hinterland attendees will be required to wear a face covering when they’re not eating or drinking. There will be an increased number of bathrooms, food vendors and entrance/exit spots to help reduce lines, as well as “robust sanitation procedures” to keep common areas clean.

Festival staff will enforce these guidelines, organizers promise.

Hinterland festival-goers relax in between sets at the 2019 festival in St. Charles, Iowa. — Sophie McClatchey/Little Village

While everyone who purchased a 2020 festival pass will automatically receive a pass to this year’s fest, Hinterland says “a limited number of tickets will be made available” compared to past years to facilitate social distancing. Camping sites will also be more spread out.

Parking passes will be available for $25, but patrons will need to walk from their parking spot to the festival grounds — there will be no shuttle service this year due to COVID-19 precautions.

Online ticket sales begin Friday, March 19 at hinterlandiowa.com. A three-day general admission pass runs $145. Unlike past years, no single-day passes will be sold. “It is possible single day tickets may go on sale in the future, but we can’t guarantee it at this time,” the website states.

COVID-19 will no doubt remain a concern for event planners and -goers for the foreseeable future, even as widespread vaccination makes the risk of spread much lower. President Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 strategy endeavors to have all U.S. adults eligible for vaccination by May 1, and bring the nation “closer to normal” by July 4 — a timeline Dr. Anthony Fauci has called “quite reasonable.”

The state government plans to make all Iowan adults eligible for vaccination by April 5, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday. Actually getting all adults vaccinated will be a bigger challenge, and depends on how much and how soon the federal government augments Iowa’s vaccine supply.

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The latest CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals says small gatherings, indoor or outdoor, are safe for most. However, they caution against “medium or large-sized gatherings” and crowds, recommending masks and six-foot social distancing when in public or among unvaccinated people from more than one other household.

Old Crow Medicine Show at the 2015 Hinterland Festival. — Matthew Terry

For those who want the Hinterland experience without risking a large gathering, organizers plan to offer a virtual festival as well.

“We’re very much looking forward to providing a streaming option this year. It’s something we’ve discussed in the past and the availability of the technology has increased in the past year making it possible for us to add that in as an option in 2021,” Hinterland organizer Sam Summers said in a statement shared with Little Village. “If there’s enough interest in it, it’s something we would certainly keep moving forward.”

Summers promised Hinterland will keep a close eye on the pandemic in Iowa over the next five months.

“We’ve made plans for a lot of scenarios at the event and are prepared to adapt as infection levels and vaccination rates fluctuate up or down.”


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