Country Summer draws music fans to Santa Rosa from near and far

The Country Summer music festival kicked off Friday and continues Saturday and ends Sunday with headliner Toby Keith.|

Anette Kuermeland flew 5,000 miles to be at Friday’s opening night for the Country Summer music festival’s fifth year at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

Standing in the crowd that packed the carnival lot from end to end, Kuermeland and her boyfriend, Vegard Steinbakk, both 31, and her cousin, Cody Eide, 27, fit right in with other folks - many wearing cowboy hats and boots - immersed in the pure Americana of blunt lyrics, wailing guitars and the heavy bass drumbeat of the group Granger Smith.

“We really like them,” she said.

During their favorite Granger Smith song, “Happens Like That,” there was an impromptu marriage proposal on stage, with a man on one knee facing his intended betrothed.

Kuermeland captured it, albeit from a distance, on video on her cellphone.

Steinbakk is such a country music fan that Kuermeland bought him the festival tickets as a birthday present and they flew from Stavanger, Norway - the oil capital of Norway - to attend with her cousin, Cody Eide, who lives in San Francisco.

“They’ve been here for a week, but this is the highlight,” Eide said, shouting over the music and sipping an IPA from a cup.

There were four long lines for beer and other beverages at the Bud Light booths near one corner of the lot.

Eide said he beat the line by offering cash to a man near the front.

“I paid a guy five bucks to get in front of him,” Eide said.

Turned out the man’s name was also Cody.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, features three straight days of music from both upcoming and longstanding country acts.

Anthony Oandason, 28,of Santa Rosa, and his girlfriend Maria Figueroa, 23, of Rohnert Park were at the tail end of a beer line, and not moving forward with any speed.

“They need a little bit more vendors,” Oandason said.

The prices for suds were steep, with large draft beers at $12 and regular at $9.

The couple came mostly for Friday’s closing act, Florida Georgia Line, featuring Tyler Hubbard (Georgia) and Brian Kelley (Florida).

“FGL for short,” Oandason said. “That’s what they call it on the street.”

Aromas of marijuana and barbecuing meat mixed in the air.

Along a walkway heading toward Bennett Valley Road, a temporary metal fence marked the official smoking area.

For those who got hungry, booths were grilling sausage, hot dogs, ribs and kabobs over charcoal, and offering deep fried Twinkies and Oreo cookies, corn dogs, curly fries, ice cream and more.

Tonight’s headline act will be Little Big Town, the award-winning country quartet featuring Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet at 8:15 p.m. The lineup, starting at 1 p.m., includes Seth Ennis, Drake White, Tyler Farr and ?Maren Morris.

Country star Toby Keith will close the festival Sunday at 6:15 p.m.

For information and tickets, go to

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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