Country festival rocks Mission

As many as 10,000 people walked through the gates of the annual Rockin’ River Music Festival at Mission Raceway Park last weekend, according to the event’s organizer.

Kenny Hess said ticket sales for the two-day country music jam were up 40 per cent from last year, selling about 5,400 tickets on Friday and Saturday.

Now in its third year, Hess lined up an impressive cast of country music stars, including Sawyer Brown, Lonestar, Rick Tippe and Travis Tritt.

There were also local boys, such as Merv Tremblay and Brent Lee of Mission, and from Vancouver, Ken McCoy and Chad Brownlee.

Hess said everything went perfectly to plan with every act beginning on time, save for Tritt, who started his set nine minutes late. But according to Hess, the lateness was fashionably accepted by the audience, as it built the excitement and momentum for the finale.

“Of course being a daddy, the highlight for me was watching my little girl sing,” said Hess.

His 23-year-old daughter Becca Hess, for whom he wrote his soulful hit song Becca Fly, performed three songs, two she wrote herself and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

“I just stood there with big ol’ tears in my eyes.”

Becca is following in the footsteps of her father, pursuing a career in country music.

“Daddy” performed as well, as he has for each of the three years since bringing the festival to Mission.

Mission councillors praised the hard work of organizers, with Coun. Heather Stewart saying the crowds show the event is important for the district to support in the future.

“It’s big and we deserve to have it,” she said.

Hess said he believes it’s going to get even bigger in the future, adding sponsors have already come forward to make offers for next year’s event.