GAYS MILLS - Are you ready for the 2019 Stump Dodger Bash? Well, it’s scheduled for this coming July Fourth Weekend in Gays Mills.
While the Bash actually kicks off on Friday, July 5, you can bet there will be plenty of people attending the event who arrive in time for the Gays Mills Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration in the park next to the campgrounds.
As for the grounds, they're in good shape, according to Stump Dodger Bash organizer Jim Showen. Although all-time record flooding in the fall of 2018 took its toll on the campsite and grounds, Showen’s crew have the site repaired and improved and ready for the ninth annual event.
Incidentally, Jim Showen couldn’t help but let it slip that there are some big plans in the works for next year to celebrate the Tenth Annual Stump Dodger Bash.
But hey–that’s a year away…wait until you hear the lineup for this year. Sure, there’s plenty of great entertainment in store for Friday night, but here’s the surprise–the headliner is none other than Viroqua’s High Mileage. That’s right LaVon ‘Spanky’ Felton and his band will headline the night.
After stealing the show last year, High Mileage was granted the headliner spot this year. They’re scheduled to play two 60-minute sets starting at 8:15 p.m.
“They definitely earned the spot,” Showen said of High Mileage. “They’re able to play any kind of music and with the addition of a guitar player from a Prairie du Chien band that broke up, they’re really good. They just get better and better. They really are the headliners.”
That may be, but High Mileage will top a tasty night of music starting with Courtney Dickinsoon, an up-and-coming country singer, who thrills audiences with her engaging songs. Courtney will start the show at 5 p.m. on Friday night.
Country star Matt Austin follows Dickinson. Austin, who has played as a headliner at the Bash in the not too distant past, is back again by popular demand. Like many artists who play the Bash, Austin asked if he could make a return performance this year and Showen jumped at the chance to have him again. Austin has been called a very talented performer with a smooth voice. He plays at 6:45 p.m.
It sounds like a solid lineup topped off by the local favorites, High Mileage.
While Friday night will end with some local talent, Saturday’s entertainment will start with some–Smoking Gun Showdown, a female duo-fronted country band from Prairie du Chien, will get things going at 2:30 p.m. This hot local act is also returning to the Bash after favorably impressing the crowd last year.
Country artist Shane Runion takes the stage at 4:45 p.m. and is followed by fellow Nashville performer Jada Vance at 6:30 p.m. Vance is scheduled to pay at Summerfest in Milwaukee on the Fourth of July.
Then it’s time for Jared Blake, another Stump Dodger favorite, who has headlined the show before. This year he gets started at 8:15 p.m. and will be opening for headliner Jason Pritchett.
Like Jared Blake and Matt Austin, Jason Prichett also asked for another chance to play the Bash.
“Jason was brought back by popular demand after playing here last year,” Showen explained. “He has several hit records and had a good television appearance on The Voice or American Idol or some show like that.”
Jason has plenty of buzz in country circles this year and promises to put on a special show. He is a former professional bull rider from Independence, Missouri, who is said to be putting the western back in country music. Jason is scheduled to start at 9:45 p.m.
Country music remains the focus of the Stump Dodger Bash, but there’s plenty more going on in the campground and surrounding area.
Anticipating another large crowd, Jim Showen has again rented the adjoining Crawford County Fairgrounds for more camping space.
“It’s a good place to camp,” Showen said of the fairgrounds. “There’s plenty of facilities for campers on the fairgrounds.”
What else is happening at the Bash? Well, there are kids games on Saturday staring at 1 p.m. and culminating in Allison’s Bike Giveaway around 2 p.m. Allison Showen oversees this annual event, which includes giving eight new bikes away this year.
There will also be helicopter rides available at the fairgrounds on Saturday.
And what’s a bash without food? This year a Boscobel vendor will be featuring Chicago-style hotdogs and Blackhawk Grill from Viroqua will be on hand with a variety of tasty offerings.
Additionally, the Friends of the Gays Mills Pool will have a food stand.
Jim Showen seems genuinely amazed at the growth of the event over the years. He still remembers the first Stump Dodger Bash held in 2010. The event drew about 200 people, everyone enjoyed it and it has just kept growing every year.
“We call it ‘The First 200’ those folks that attended the very first Stump Dodger Bash,” Showen said with smile. “And, 99 percent of them have returned every year since then. Everybody kind of knows everybody that was there.
“It just keeps growing,” Showen noted. “Last year, was the biggest year again. We’ve been lucky to have great weather.”
There’s another tradition in an event with more than a few already–that’s the charitable aspect of it. Money raised from beer sales and a charitable raffle for a ‘performers-signed’ guitar is given to a very special local charity–The Wheel of Todd. It’s a unique charity run by Craig Bell in honor of his son Todd Bell, who has passed away.
The Wheel of Todd has a very simple mission. Bell, his family and friends work to provide an all-expenses-paid trip to a Packer football game at Lambeau Field for a child in a wheelchair and an attendant. Not only does The Wheel of Todd provide the two tickets for the handicap section, the organization also provides two nights at a hotel in Green Bay and $500 cash to spend on the weekend.
Here’s the other part, Wheel of Todd does this for four home games. It all began, as Craig waited on a list to be called for the special handicap seating tickets. The point was to get his son Todd Bell to a Packer game and fulfill a dream. Unfortunately, his son passed away due to complications from Duchenne muscular dystrophy just before the tickets became available.
When Craig received the notification that he could purchase three sets of season tickets in the handicap section, as part of the Packer Gold Package, his first thought was to just turn them back for someone else to use.
Then, he changed his mind and decided to use those tickets to allow other handicapped children to enjoy the dream of attending the Packer game that he had hoped to share with Todd.
It was his Craig’s brother who suggested the hotel rooms and the spending money. He pointed out that although the tickets were the hardest part to get, the expense for a hotel room and other things would be too great for many to afford. So some additional fundraising was in order.
The Wheel of Todd had tickets for its first season in 2013. By 2014, the Stump Dodger Bash had switched its charitable giving to the group. Since then, the proceeds from beer sales and other fundraising activities at the Bash has raised $18,000 for Wheel of Todd.
Craig estimates it costs about $2,000 per game. A while back, another person with season handicap section tickets in the Green Package donated a pair of them to Wheel of Todd. So, the organization has been doing four games per season. Craig figures at $2,000 a game the donations from Stump Dodger Bash would be enough to pay for more than all the costs for two full years.The Wheel of Todd donations are a great side effect from the popular country music event–look to donate if you go.