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Music scene arriving in huge way

Sam Brown and Brooke Herling promote the first inaugural Big Turn Music Fest in Red Wing. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia

Red Wing's reputation is built on a foundation of natural beauty and the hardworking people who live here.

Could it also be known for music?

Sam Brown thinks so. He is a native of Red Wing and founder the successful Midwest Music Fest in Winona. As a student at Red Wing High School, he also helped found the Loud and Local showcase at River City Days.

"This kind of work really feeds my soul," Brown said. "It really puts a spring in my step to be able to do this for other people."

Brown has been simmering with the idea of bringing a music festival to Red Wing for a few years. Now, with the help of some friends and RWHS alums, he's launching the inaugural Big Turn Music Fest in downtown Red Wing on Feb. 16-17, 2018.

Choosing a mid-winter weekend for the festival was no accident. Big Turn aims to attract a high number of visitors to town qho will find lodging and spend money locally, turning an otherwise down season into a profitable February for local businesses.

"Big Turn will give us a chance to sit with the artists and their work and share the tunes that tell our stories, that spark joy and thoughtfulness, and that spur us to dance and shout," Mayor Sean Dowse said. He hopes it will become a tradition.

Organizers say Big Turn will be an annual event. Starting in 2019, it will happen on the last weekend in February when business could use a boost. Brown said, to get things started, Valentine's Day weekend was the best opportunity to schedule Big Turn in 2018.

"It's just going to be an intimate musical magical evening. Hopefully it's snowing," said Brooke Herling, Big Turn's assistant director. "I love Minnesota, I love winter time. I always say magic happens when it snows."

Big Turn has confirmed that nearly 100 bands will play the inaugural festival and 17 venues will host shows. Acts include local, regional and out-of-state favorites such as Caroline Smith, Porcupine, and Jeremy Messersmith. Fans of The New Standards, playing that same weekend at the Sheldon Theatre, will have a chance to get discounted Big Turn tickets to enjoy music all weekend long, and Big Turn ticket holders will be able to purchase discounted New Standards tickets as well.

"We've been met with so much love from Red Wing — Bonnie Schock at the Sheldon was one of the first people I talked to," Brown said of the theater's executive director. "One of the first things out of people's mouth is usually 'Red Wing needs something like this.' Let's make it happen then."

In some cases, Big Turn plans to showcase music in a unique way by pairing artists with relevant venues. Musician Ben Weaver bikes to most of his shows and will bike from the Twin Cities to play Big Turn, so Red Wing Bicycle Co. is his venue. The YMCA will also get in on the fun by hosting live, ambient music by bo.monro during one of their yoga classes.

Programming will take place during the day on Saturday for fans and artists, but organizers say those details are still being finalized.

The list of bands was formally announced by the members of Big Turn's steering committee on Nov. 24 at the Holiday Stroll. Tickets are now on sale through the website