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March 22, 2016

Sixth Annual Runaway Country Music Festival

The Sixth Annual Runaway Country Music Festival took place March 18-20 in Kissimmee. Previously held at Melbourne's Wickham Park, the festival had a flawless transition to Osceola Heritage Park. With past years' attendance averaging in the tens of thousands, the new location was well-scouted, and very accommodating for the throngs of country music fans descending on the grounds. Day-trippers, weekend-long campers, and folks just looking for a random evening out flowed in to enjoy the vast array of fun, food, and music during the three-day event.


Runaway Country takes place indoors, outdoors, and on multiple stages. Upon entry, guests are first greeted by the Outer Limits Party Zone, which was open for line dancing and karaoke. Velveeta and Bud Light held down the vendor forts at Outer Limits, providing both refreshment and amusement. This area came in handy when Mother Nature decided to unleash on Saturday, and it drew crowds as an after-hours party zone until the wee hours of the morning. When the stages cleared and the vendors shut down each night, Outer Limits was the place to be!
Outside, in front of Outer Limits, guests could opt in for a round of Cooler Cart Racing. And yes... this was every bit as fun to watch as you're thinking it was. Redneck innovation at its finest!
Event sponsors such as LazyDays RV and Dodge had campers and trucks on display near the festival entrance, for those in the market for new toys. 
Alcoholic beverages are purchased at Runaway Country by use of drink tokens. These were $8 each this year, and each beverage (full-size or shot) was worth one token. This is the only currency accepted for alcoholic beverage purchases on-site.
After finding a token vendor, guests had plenty of options for spending the tokens. The Runaway Country Shot Truck offered shots in singles, doubles - or, you could bring three friends and tackle the "shot-ski".
The Fireball stand had a nice variety, even beyond the Fireball. I found a new favorite here - Demon's Kiss, which is Fireball combined with cranberry juice. I didn't think I liked Fireball or cranberry juice - until I tried them together! The bartenders confirmed this one to be a popular request, so I'm not the only one who made a brilliant discovery here.
Bud Light was another prominent event sponsor, with plenty of presence throughout the festival grounds - even pulling out the Bud Light Buggy for an appearance! Their portable bar was a smashing success, and always full of thirsty people.
Another favorite representative of the beverage variety, Jack Daniels brought a miniature version of their Lynchburg distillery tour! I have to admit, this was a pretty cool feature, and the representatives on-hand were full of fun facts and information during the self-guided experience. Of course, a bar was attached to the distillery, serving up multiple varieties of Jack Daniels.
Many vendors provided amusements and fun contests - from prize claw machines to meet and greet opportunities with Runaway Country artists. Vendors raffled off side-stage passes, backstage meet and greets, and even hosted artists at their tents for signings and photos. 
Random games of cornhole and supersized beer pong amused the masses between performances.
And when drinking and games weren't on the agenda, there were plenty of options to feast instead. Food trucks and carnival-style vendors served up full meals and greasy treats. Every type of cuisine was represented, and absolutely everything looked and smelled so very good.
Local favorites such as Hard Rock Cafe delivered popular menu items as well. 
Vendors ran the gamut - from locally-based to distant; with everyday necessities, upcycled creations, and alluring innovations. Many of the items for sale were reasonably discounted for the event specifically. 
Of course, guests also had the option to purchase official Runaway Country gear, too. T-shirts, large thermal mugs, and more were available at fair prices - discounted for multiple items purchased as well!
There were two outdoor stages alternating hosting duty throughout the festival. My Apartment was a covered stage that was semi-indoors and very intimate.
The Runaway Stage was a larger, central stage that was fully outdoors and featured off-shoot extensions. The Runaway Stage offered reserved seating, stage-front, and projection screens airing on-stage action. 
The Runaway Stage played host to a wide variety of performers throughout the weekend, including Old Dominion, Jake Owen, Thomas Rhett, Neal MCoy, Eric Church...
Maddie and Tae,
Locash,
Lockhart,
and Kenny Chesney,
I personally preferred My Apartment. The sound was more encompassing and you really felt like you were part of the show in this environment. We caught Sawyer Brown here to close out Saturday, and this was just a fantastic show on every possible level. I'm willing to admit that I may be a bit biased, because I have loved Sawyer Brown my whole life. Runaway Country does a fantastic job of representing country music through the decades and across the generations. 
There are a variety of ticketing options for Runaway Country: single-day passes, three-day passes, optional reserved seating packages, campsite packages, even private toilets. The "early bird" ticketing for 2017 has already begun, with three-day passes currently available for $110 through Saturday, March 26. The 2017 lineup has yet to be announced, but the event is set to return to Osceola Heritage Park. If you're a fan of country music or festivals in general, you're probably safe to make the commitment even before performers are announced. Runaway Country Music Festival is just a fun time overall, and it's a great fit for the venue. The 2016 event was well-staffed, and it ran very smoothly. 

My top tips - wear comfortable shoes, bring an easily portable chair, stake out a stage viewing spot early, save up plenty of spending money, and be social. Runaway Country offers a lot more than music, and it's a perfect excuse to gather up friends for a memorable weekend. 

For more information on Runaway Country, visit them online, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter. To see full-size versions of all of our Runaway Country photos, visit our photo album from the event.