A new country music festival in the town of Hamilton that could draw up to 30,000 spectators won preliminary approval Tuesday night from a committee of the La Crosse County Board.

Members of the Planning, Resources and Development Committee unanimously supported a conditional-use permit for Country Boom, a two- to three-day festival to be held on the former grounds of the Maple Grove Country Club.

The plan is to book 10 acts per day, including “top tier” country acts, said Jon Holthaus of Country Boom LLC, with plenty of space for camping and parking on the former golf course. The plan is to hold the event the second weekend in July, which next year would be July 13-15.

Jon Holthaus


“There’s definitely a market for it,” Holthaus said. “I think it could be a huge asset to the community.”

If the festival brought in 20,000 visitors, it could have an estimated $7.5 million impact on the local economy, according to A.J. Frels, executive director of the La Crosse County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Holthaus said it’s too soon to talk about who might get booked for the show. In fact, if the right mix of acts can’t be secured to get Country Boom started with a bang, Holthaus said the first Country Boom would have to wait until 2019.

“We want to do it right right out of the gate,” he said.

The property is owned by real estate developer Steve Nicolai, who has remodeled one of the country club buildings as a banquet hall. A member of the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Nicolai wants to use the rest of the property for “silent sports,” with trails for biking, hiking and a top-notch course for cross country meets.

While far from silent, Country Boom will give Nicolai’s vision for the property a boost. “My theory is excitement builds excitement,” Nicolai said.

Approvals from the sheriff’s department, the highway department and the full county board will be required before Country Boom can move ahead.


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