Dunnigan Fest is May 28 in Whitefish

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Dunnigan Fest is a benefit event for local musician John Dunnigan and his family. Dunnigan fell ill earlier this year with pancreatitis, which has prevented him from performing since January. The medical bills, coupled with the income loss of not booking shows, has taken a toll on the longtime local performer.

Tonight the community has a chance to give back to the man who’s given so much over the years.

“[The benefit] is going to be really fun,” Dunnigan said. “It’s going to be unbelievable. Extraordinary.”

Dunnigan Fest will involve a large part of the downtown Whitefish community. Whitefish is home for Dunnigan and his family, and he has performed around the valley and across the region full-time for more than 30 years.

Dunnigan Fest will feature a multitude of musicians performing in various venues in Whitefish throughout the evening. The four primary venues are the Great Northern Bar and Grill, 27 Central Ave.; Crush Lounge, 124 Central Ave.; Tupelo Grille, 17 Central Ave.; and Craggy Range Bar and Grill, 10 Central Ave.

Confirmed performers for the evening include the Red Hot Blue Chips, God Fearing Women and Smart Alex at Craggy Range; Halladay and Rob Quist and Tim Ryan at Crush; Second Wind, The Stringlers and Jack Gladstone at Tupelo; and David Walburn, Doug Rommereim, Brent Jameson and Donny Rifkin, the Bad Larrys and the Lil’ Smokies at the Great Northern.

Scott Johnston, Christian Johnson, Andre Floyd, Jeff Arcel and many other performers are rumored to be making appearances during the event as well.

Dunnigan Fest wristbands are $20 and allow access into all the primary venues. Raffle tickets will be on sale throughout the evening as well, with prizes such as a trip to Las Vegas, donated by Allegiant Air; original artwork pieces created and donated by Colt Idol and Jeff Arcel; concert tickets to a show of the winner’s choice at the Crown Guitar Festival, donated by the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation; a Whitefish Lake Golf Course package; a “stay and eat” package at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake; and many more items.

Dunnigan merchandise and event souvenirs will be available at the four primary venues for purchase. The items for sale are all limited editions and are expected to sell out.

Wristbands, raffle tickets and merchandise are not available in advance. Doors open for Dunnigan Fest at 6 p.m. today.

All of the proceeds from the event will go to the Dunnigan family. All of the musicians, artists and organizers of the event are volunteering their time and talents to support one of their own.

The website https://helpjohndunnigan.wordpress.com was set up by Dunnigan family friend Scott Moore immediately after Dunnigan became ill as a way to update friends and fans. On March 1, John and his wife Andrea’s oldest son Andy took to the blog with an update.

“Guitar in hand for the past 30 years, my father certainly has had and continues to have an immeasurable impact on the Flathead Valley’s community,” Andy wrote. “Never turning down a request to donate his time for the innumerable benefits, charity organizations, sports fundraisers, humane societies … you name it. He undoubtedly and sincerely loves to help. Now, it’s him who could use the support.”

Andrea said she considers the community’s support a blessing.

“John has played many benefits throughout his career,” Andrea said. “He never said no when someone needed help. People haven’t forgotten that. We can’t thank people enough.”

The Dunnigan’s youngest son, Jimmy, echoed his mother’s sentiments.

“Thanks to everyone in the community,” Jimmy said. “It’s awesome how much love and support we’ve gotten from the entire town.”

The entire Dunnigan clan said they are gratefully looking forward to Dunnigan Fest.

“I’m just in awe of all my friends in the valley,” John said. “All of the support and the whole event … It’s really unbelievable. The whole thing has been incredibly humbling beyond belief.”

John has been a staple on Thursday nights at the Northern for a large part of his career. Dunnigan Fest will mark his return to the local stage.

The Lil’ Smokies, a bluegrass band based in Missoula, includes Andy in the lineup. The Smokies will be headlining the Dunnigan Fest event from the Great Northern stage.

The Lil’ Smokies will take the stage around 9 p.m. John said he plans to join the group for at least one set.

“I’m excited,” John said. “Playing music … It’s my life. I’m just ready to be playing again.”

John plans to resume his regular solo Thursday night shows at the Northern beginning June 4. He also has booked June performances at Craggy Range and the Boat Club in the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

This summer he plans to perform at fairs and festivals around the region, just as he’s done so many summers before. He said he’s also working on a new song called “Oh What a Mess, My Pancreas.”

Anyone who can’t attend the event but would like to donate to the Dunnigans can visit https://helpjohndunnigan.wordpress.com to make an online donation.

For more information on Dunnigan Fest, visit www.greatnorthernbar.com or go to the Great Northern’s Facebook page.

Social media users are encouraged to tag and follow #DunniganFest on posts and photos throughout the event.

— By Stefanie Thompson / For This Week Whitefish

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