OPINION: Stampede moves to Topeka, Manhattan is as broke and sad as its college students

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Country Stampede moved from Tuttle Creek State Park to Topeka's Heartland Motorsports Park due to the floods in Manhattan. The announcement was made Thursday that the move would be permanent. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

If you’d noticed the glaring lack of cowboys in Manhattan this weekend, it’s because all the country music fans migrated to Topeka along with Country Stampede, the three-day music and camping festival that, until this year, took place at Tuttle Creek State Park.

In light of the rising water levels and flood risk throughout Manhattan since earlier this summer, the festival was moved to Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka. What most thought would be a one-time relocation turned into a permanent change when Country Stampede officially rebranded itself as “Heartland Stampede” which, let’s face it, isn’t nearly as catchy or direct.

As someone who has never attended a Country Stampede before and planned to for the first time this year, news of the festival’s move to Topeka broke my heart — my achy breaky heart.

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Haley & Michaels guitarist rocks out on the main stage of the 2019 Kicker Country Stampede. The Stampede moved from Tuttle Creek State Park to Topeka's Heartland Motorsports Park due to floods in Manhattan. Organizer announced Thursday they would be moving permanently to the Topeka park. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Country Stampede is — sorry, was — a Manhattan tradition 23 years running. Whether music lovers were camping out at Tuttle Creek State Park or driving in from hotels in town, the music festival attracted an audience from all around Kansas and the world.

Despite the best of intentions by festival organizers, the Heartland parking lot, which I’m sure was super comfortable to sleep on, doesn’t seem to be any more immune to poor weather conditions than Tuttle. Day two of Heartland Stampede was delayed due to wet conditions, not that those of us in Manhattan are laughing about the irony or anything.

Even if we disregard the emotional devastation the Heartland Stampede has left in its wake, there’s the gaping hole it’s creating in the Manhattan economy. Country Stampede pumped somewhere around $8 million in revenue into the city each year, and many Manhattan residents are wondering how that gap could be closed moving forward. Those potholes you wanted filled? Sorry, that cement is being poured in Topeka now.

Overall, breaking a 23-year-old tradition and rebranding a festival with an established and dedicated following doesn’t seem like a smart move either from a business or ethical perspective. I took a marketing class two semesters ago, so I would know. Festival-goers are unhappy, Manhattan businesses are unhappy and Heartland Stampede will be a very inconvenient name to change next time they decide to relocate.

On the bright side, this story could make a pretty catchy country song if you change the name “Country Stampede” to some girl who ran away with all your money and left you brokenhearted.

Emma Witter is a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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