Most of all, his name is instantly recognizable to most Americans. Whether fans of his music or not, almost everyone seems to know who Willie Nelson is — even, apparently, the young folks of today.
“Willie crosses multiple generations of fans,” said Bourne. “It’s funny, because the older generation is excited, but I’ve heard that it’s the biggest gossip at Meece Middle School. Even kids know who Willie Nelson is.
“Looking at other major festivals, any one of those — Bonnaroo, Forecastle, whatever — if he were playing at any of them, he’d be on the top bill of that festival.”
Bourne herself is one of those who grew up listening to Nelson, as did others in her family. He’s held a place in her life for years — “One of those goodies you can always turn on and listen to,” she said.
“There’s nothing like this that’s ever been in Somerset,” she added. “He’d usually play Lexington or Louisville. What we (as a board) are most excited about is brining in this caliber of music. The MMF board jumped through hoops, held fundraisers, and spent many hours trying to make this happen. We all love our community and want to see it grow, and this will definitely put us on the map.”
Saving money has also been a big part of it. Since becoming president of the MMF board, Bourne has helped spearhead efforts to cut costs (such as the salary of a paid festival director) and build money from year to year, specifically with the goal in mind of a 20th birthday blowout.
Of course, the festival will change a bit, certainly from its humble beginnings in 1994. Bringing in an act like Nelson will likely require more security on-site; it may also mean enacting limited seating. With Nelson sure to bring droves of fans to Festival Field behind Somerset Community College this July, “we will probably have to cut it off at a certain point to control the number of people,” said Bourne, who’s already spoken with Nelson’s road manager about what to expect.