Country Stampede is synonymous with some of the biggest names in country music. Such musicians as Sam Hunt, Maddie and Tae, Ashley McBryde and Luke Combs graced the main stage in front of thousands.
But two smaller stages, Tuttleville and Songwriters, are home to lesser-known country musicians will with potential.
The songwriters stage offers a small intimate setting for those listening to the artists performing. The stage sits under a wooden, open shelter.
Singers perform on the stage each day of the festival, and a few even get the opportunity to take their songs to the main stage.
Kansan Bryton Stoll has been performing on the Songwriters Stage for three years.
Stoll has been writing songs since he was in junior high. He has released two albums, the most recent being “The Landlocked Sailor.”
Stoll said the Songwriters Stage is an opportunity for musicians to share their music with people who are country music fans.
“It’s really great to have a stage where the focus is songwriters,” Stoll said. “They want you to play your original songs. They want to listen to the lyrics and they want to listen to you.”
Those who play on the Songwriters Stage are also entered into the songwriting contest.
“That means you pick a song that you have recorded, and it goes up on the Country Stampede page for people to vote on,” Stoll said.
This year’s contest winners were musician Zach Blair and band Matfield Green, both based in Tennessee.
The Songwriters Stage serves as a way for musicians to further their music careers.
“It’s all about exposure for musicians that want to get their music out to fans here,” Stoll said. “It’s practice. It’s also networking. It’s a really cool way to hang out with a bunch of songwriters. It kind of feels like a yearly family reunion.”
This is the first year Overland Park-based musician Kyle Austin has performed at Country Stampede.
Austin became interested in country music at 10 when he received his first guitar. His grandfather instilled a love of writing and playing music in him.
Austin said he has been pursuing a music career full-time for a little more than two years now.
Country Stampede, Austin said, is the one event his friends look forward to every year. When his friends found out Austin would be playing at the festival, they were ecstatic.
“I look for any opportunity to play in front of people but also any opportunity to get my music out there,” Austin said. “This was a good mix of both.”
Rain threatened Austin’s first year at Country Stampede. But as storms rolled over Heartland Motorsports Park on Friday afternoon and the festival grounds shut down, Austin’s band pulled out their guitars and played an acoustic set.
“We almost had more people because nobody else was playing music — and we were the only ones playing music — so we had more people come over and pay attention,” Austin said. “It turned out to be really successful.”