“Herd Immunity Fest” Went Down in Wisconsin: Here’s How It Looked

The three-day event took place despite backlash over health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Crowd at July Mini Fest in Wisconsin

The three-day rock festival previously referred to as “Herd Immunity Fest”  made national headlines when it was announced last month. Despite immense backlash, the festival took place as planned Thursday (July 16th) through Saturday (July 18th) outside the Q&Z Expo Center in Ringle, Wisconsin, and a smattering of social media posts and YouTube clips offer a glimpse of what it looked like.

The “Herd Immunity Fest” faced backlash when it was first announced in late June, not only for its name but for the fact that it was going to be staged in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite organizers quickly renaming the event the “July Mini Fest”, a handful of bands dropped off the bill, including Nonpoint, Royal Bliss, Kaleido, and Blacktop Mojo.

Things looked sketchy this past week when organizers reached out to fans to help set up the grounds on Wednesday, one day before the festival was set to kick off. Photos from that day didn’t show much in the way of any progress (cue the Fyre Festival comparisons), but apparently they were able to set up the site in time.

Thursday’s bill was a light one, comprised of just three bands — Sponge, Flaw, and Saving Abel. Sponge singer Vin Dombroski gave veteran music journalist Gary Graff an overview of his experience in an interview with The Oakland Press.

“They got some pretty bad press,” Dombroski said after returning to Detroit following the band’s Thursday set, “but I felt like you had to give it a chance — maybe there’s something that will shed some light on how to do these things. There’s nothing up there. The area’s a cornfield.”

He added, “If we were gonna do anything like this, it felt like the safest bet I’d seen so far. I went with an open mind — and a little apprehension.”

As for the crowd, Dombroski estimated that 750-1000 people were there for Sponge’s set. He added that he didn’t see much in the way of mask wearing, but did witness some social distancing in the crowd. “I don’t know what’s going go on the other days, but from what I saw yesterday [fans] were doing a good job [of social distancing],” he remarked. “I was a little surprised, but my experience was a positive one, as risky as it sounded.”

Friday got off to a rough start when headliner Bobflex couldn’t make their set after their van broke down on the way to the festival. That left AC/DC cover band Thunderstuck as the day’s headliner. Organizers posted a couple of Friday photos on Facebook, which showed a seemingly sparse crowd, but fairly spaced out.

Saturday’s bill was the main event, with Static-X serving as headliner along with sets from Adelitas Way, Dope, and others. While one person posted the full sets from Static-X and Dope on YouTube, the camera remained focused on the stage throughout, never panning away to show the crowd.

For their part, Static-X did reach out to fans a couple days prior to their performance, urging them to wear masks and maintain social distancing. The band stated, “It is of the utmost importance that we EACH do our part to make this as safe as possible for everyone.”

A number of fan pics and videos on Instagram give a sense of what the crowds were like throughout the festival. Some show just a few people sitting in lawn chairs at the front of the stage, while others show a more tightly packed crowd. Organizers limited tickets to 2,500 in an effort to maintain social distancing, but the photos and videos suggest the number of attendees was considerably less than that.

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See the Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube posts below to get a sense of what the just-completed “July Mini Fest” looked like.

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