That hasn’t stopped excited buyers from snapping up tickets for the event.
“We have sold 900 tickets for the rock night without knowing who the bands are,” Jett said. “We have people who just support the foundation. No matter what [is playing] they will go.”
The RISE Up Foundation was founded by Jett and his wife, Amber, to put on concert festivals for McHenry, with the proceeds going to the city’s parks.
Its first concert weekend in 2021 had been delayed a year by COVID-19, but Splash into Country raised $200,000 toward the city’s first splash pad.
“We have people who just support the foundation. No matter what [is playing] they will go.”— Wayne Jett, McHenry mayor and RISE Up Foundation co-founder
The 2022 country music show again raised $200,000 for the renovation of Miller Point Park, with another $250,000 earmarked for the park’s new pavilion, donated by Gary Lang, former owner of Gary Lang Auto Group.
After a year off this year to give volunteers a break, Jett’s ambitions have grown with the festival for 2024. It will now kick off a day earlier, on Thursday, Sept. 12. That first night is being called Rock the Lake, and Jett plans to bring three big-name acts to Petersen Park, attracting a crowd that prefers rock over country music.
With three nights of music instead of two, Jett believes the weekend will raise $400,000 to pay for an inclusive playground and other improvements at downtown McHenry’s Veterans Memorial Park.
Jett made the first band announcement on Nov. 20 when he posted on the riseupmchenry.com website and its Facebook page which bands will play during Splash into Country, the second and third nights of the music festival. Ticket sales started on Black Friday.
The lineup for Friday, Sept.13, now includes Old Dominion, the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards Vocal Group of the Year winner. Rounding out the night is TikTok sensation Tayler Holder and “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” alum Lauren Alaina.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, the lineup includes Nashville Star winner Chris Young, along with Justin Moore and Greylan James.
Jett has at least one more well-known country music act to announce, but not until February. A radius clause – where an act is prevented from playing in a certain area before or after appearing nearby – prevents an announcement until then, he said.
In a few weeks, Jett is hoping to announce Thursday’s rock acts. He said one of the pending contracts is with “a very, very large rock band that would sell out in a heartbeat at the festival,” Jett said.
Ticket sales are going well. There were just 200 to 250 two- and three-day passes left as of midday Thursday, Jett said. Individual acts also announced, via their online outlets, a pre-sale that started on Thanksgiving for fans only.
Jett is pushing early sales and technology. Via the ticketing company he is using, RISE Up has eliminated paper and made all the tickets, from entrance to drink tickets, scannable via a phone app. Anyone who buys their drink tickets via the website by Dec. 31 receives $2 off per ticket.
He also knows where those visitors are coming from, and where they are going once the show is over. Working with the city and its data vendor, The Retail Coach, mobile data capture indicates the 2021 weekend brought 11,100 people to Petersen Park and 32% of the visitors came from McHenry.
The fundraising goal, Jett said, is to “create a park that is truly inclusive, ensuring that individuals of all abilities can enjoy its amenities.”
Exactly what those amenities will be has not been determined, Jett said. No plans will be drawn up until he and the city know how much money is available from RISE Up. He mentioned the possibility of swings and merry-go-rounds that are wheelchair-accessible, and ramps and rubberized surfaces that can accommodate wheelchairs or other mobility accessories.
At the Nov. 6 McHenry City Council meeting when the city signed off on the 2024 festival, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson suggested that Veteran’s Park was picked for the RISE Up donation as it is the second-most popular in the city.
“It is a spot that has sidewalks all of the way around. ... it is easily accessible,” making it the right location for an accessible playground, Hobson said.