Country Fest one-time event; Business problems prevent repeat of outdoor concert

There seems to be no indication that Country Fest Minnesota will return to Turtle River Golf and Entertainment Center, and that has struck a sour note with some country music fans.

There seems to be no indication that Country Fest Minnesota will return to Turtle River Golf and Entertainment Center, and that has struck a sour note with some country music fans.

Emily Newby of Bemidji said she and her mother purchased advance VIP tickets at the close of last year's Country Fest.

The three-day event held June 22-24 at Turtle River Golf and Entertainment Center, the former Castle Highlands Golf Course, was the first of its kind in Beltrami County.

The festival boasted a variety of national and local country music acts.

"It was a great time; I was really looking forward to this year," Newby said. "It's too bad this had to happen."


She and her mother shelled out over $280 apiece to secure a campsite and entertainment at a bargain for 2007.

Frank Chrz was president of Bemidji Entertainment Inc. at the time the application for a permit to hold the event was submitted to the county.

However, he said he was removed from the board of directors of Ayden Holding shortly after the festival. Chrz named Ayden Holding as the parent corporation of Bemidji Entertainment Inc.

In addition to the entertainment business, the group of local investors was also in the process of purchasing the golf course, according to Chrz.

He said he realizes that there are a number of vendors who have not been paid and acknowledged that advance tickets were sold for an event that will likely not take place.

"It's unfortunate; it was a good event," Chrz said. "The board of directors just decided to throw in the towel, or that is my understanding."

All but one investor named by Chrz were contacted; all declined public comment.

The golf course was being sold by owner Jay Loch. However, the investors have failed to uphold their end of the contract for deed, which was entered into about one year ago, according to Loch.


He said he expects to know soon whether he will regain possession of the golf course.

Loch, who had no involvement in Country Fest Minnesota, said he has no intention of hosting a camping and country music event in 2007.

In September, Beltrami County commissioners discussed seizing Bemidji Entertainment Inc.'s $25,000 security bond when the firm went 30 days past due on a $5,615 bill for field deputy and dispatch hours, for which it was under contract with the county during the festival.

Shortly after that discussion by commissioners, Greg Earl, manager of the golf course at the time of the festival, paid the bill, according to County Administrator Tony Murphy.

According to county records, only one unpaid vendor, Bob Kiewatt, who provided services at the festival has sought remuneration in civil court.

The Party Store and Acme Rentals, owned by Kiewatt at the time of the Country Fest, were owed more than $5,000 for services, according to Beltrami County District Court documents, which list Frank and his son, Justin Chrz, as defendants.

"I believe that I am one of the few, if not the only one, who worked out an agreement with Frank personally, and I am reasonably satisfied," Kiewatt said.

One temporary employee at the event said he also had trouble getting paid for three days of work.


"I finally did get paid three months later, but it was quite the run-around," Christopher Garner of Bemidji said.

There are no criminal charges pending against Frank Chrz, according to Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver.

Those who did business with Frank Chrz and were not paid, or those who bought advance sale tickets can take the matter up in civil court, Faver said.

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