Randy Logsdon, left, and brother John, right, pose for a photograph with country western recording artist John Conlee. (Photo by Rick Fromm)
The country music event that brought thousands to the village of Bluffton each summer has come to an end.
Brothers John and Randy Logsdon, who began Light up the Bluff 20 years ago, have announced the festival won't be held this summer.
"When John, with his considerable promotional skills, and I started Light up the Bluff 20 years ago, needless to say we were 20 years younger. John commented at the time every event like this has a life span. Light Up the Bluff was an incredible 20 years, said Randy, who lives in Bluffton.
"We took a gamble ... we decided we'd go three years no matter what. Twenty years later we're winding down. It's been quite a ride," said John, who lives in Ossian.
Over the years, some of the biggest names in country music performed beneath towering limestone bluffs along the Upper Iowa River at Randy's Bluffton Store and campground. Many attendees returned annually, often camping for the entire weekend.
John said his goal was to make popular country music acts accessible for people in the area.
"People were really excited about us having an affordable family event," John said.
Parents brought their children and camped.
"They didn't have to drive 150 miles round trip and have to hire a babysitter," he said. Randy owns the Store, which provided the perfect location.
"We built in everything else we needed. A lot of people have a lot of trial and error, but we pretty much nailed if off the bat," Randy said.
"We thought the market was right for country music in Bluffton. We tried to keep it as cheap as possible for people to see national headliners," John said.
The weather cooperated with Light Up the Bluff.
"Over the whole 20 years, a 15 -minute delay (for a thunderstorm) was the only delay we ever had. We never had a cancellation," Randy said.
Kenny Chesney, a three-time Country Music Association entertainer of the year, did have a close call when he was stung by a bee prior to his performance. He was allergic to the sting and John had to pick him up at the hospital before he took the stage.
"He went on like a trooper," Randy recalled. "I think he even wrote a song about it."
Charlie Daniels arrived to Light up the Bluff a little late after his bus was hit by a car near a Decorah hotel. Daniels drew the largest crowd -- about 6,000.
Other big nights were John Anderson's first performance - he played the venue more than once - and Sammy Kershaw.
The most popular Friday night opening act was The Cory Farley Band, featuring Decorah native Cory Farley. The only comedian was Decorah native Scott Pritchard.
Randy's personal favorite concert was Kentucky Headhunter because of the group's lead guitar player, Greg Martin, who was Rolling Stone's guitar player of the millennium. John had two favorites - Sammy Kershaw and Lorrie Morgan. Eddie Rabbit also gave a memorable performance, the Logsdons said.
Other concerts featured Joe Diffie, the Bellamy Brothers, Exile, Asleep at the Wheel, Chely Wright, James House, Aaron Tippen and John Conlee. The first performer was T.G. Shepard.
The Logsdons said it's difficult to thank all the people who have helped make Light Up the Bluff a success over the years, but wanted to acknowledge a few.
Sponsors included Wicks Construction of Decorah and Scott "Three Fingers" Sindelar of Spillville.
Sutton Car Wash of Decorah, Decorah Bank & Trust, Viking State Bank and Trust of Decorah and Security Bank of Spillville were long-time advertisers.
Rick Ameling. Dan Bullerman, Mike Aasum and "many others" worked the gate. The Logsdons also thanked Laura Boice and her "crew" and Lonnie Pierce for his "many special talents."
Others the Logsdons said helped make the event possible were Bemiss Distributing, Cresco Liquor, Lynch BBQ, Reicks Chicken, Chad Ness Tents, Hacketts Porta Potty, Eddy Hodges Security, South Winneshiek Trap Club, Hacker and Nelson CPAs, Proline Audio, Decorah Newspapers, bartenders and "many others who were involved in the production work it takes to put on an event like this."
The Logsdons cited Scott Logsdon and LeaEtta Jarland for their "excellent organizing skills."
Randy thanked his wife Linda and John thanked his wife Terry, for all their efforts and support.
"We tried to do everything ourselves with the help of family and friends," John said.
The Logsdons also said it was the fans who made Light Up the Bluff possible for 20 years.