TOOELE — A four-day country music festival featuring some of the biggest stars in country music is taking place in Tooele County.
The event is expected to draw a huge crowd, which is welcome news for a county that has been dealing with a financial crisis.
Tooele County officials are advising motorists to be ready for major traffic delays over the next four days, and they're not joking.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook, as you can imagine," said Jared Hamner, with the Tooele Chamber of Commerce. "Unfortunately, right now, if you're trying to get a hotel room, you're looking at Salt Lake City."
The uptick in traffic and hotel reservations is all because of the Country Explosion four-day music festival, which got underway Thursday at the Deseret Peak Complex.
The festival is bringing in top acts such as Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire and Toby Keith.
Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst is hoping the event will put Tooele on the map and help the local economy.
"This is wonderful,” Hurst said. “This is such a big event, and all the country stars coming in."
Tooele County’s money problems started making headlines in 2012 when the Deseret Chemical Depot closed, taking away $4 million from the county budget in 2013. The County Commission laid off 100 more workers because of the budget shortfall. The county even closed Deseret Peak for a while.
"It's been tough," Hurst said. "We've had to tighten our belt. We've had to lay people off, which is never a good thing."
Hurst said he hopes the festival will be a big shot in the arm to the county economy.
"When you think about making money on the facility, but then you think about all people going to Maverik and Albertsons and Soelbergs grocery store and Wal-Mart and all of these places, it's going to be a big boon to the entire county," he said.
Hotels are already booked up and restaurants ordered extra food for the weekend.
"It definitely increases our business," said Traci England-Nelson at the Best Western Inn Tooele. "We are booked solid. We have been booked solid for months."
More than 30,000 tickets have been sold, with more than half bought from people out of the area.
"This year it actually feels a lot different from last year,” England- Nelson said. “The excitement is higher. There are more people in town. It definitely is fun to see that excitement back in town."
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc