Bill Bieloh, of Walker, Minnesota conceived the Jam in 1992 as a way to promote the riding stables he and his wife Kathy own. The event got off to a modest start that first year by featuring a roster of regional bands.
"I think if it's successful, it could become an annual event with an even bigger lineup."
- Brad Walhof
The second year, national artists such as the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Bad Finger, Head East and more, along with an impressive lineup of regional bands highlighted a year of tremendous growth.
"One of the biggest thrills of my life was going on stage and announcing next year's Jam 3."
- Bill Bieloh
Moondance Jam III in 1993 had a decidedly county slant to it. Pirates of the Mississippi, Johnny PayCheck, Evangeline and Gary Puckett performed, along with regional and local bands. This was the first time an event had been held in the Walker area with a large lineup of national recording artists. The modest interest in the turnout for Country artists coupled with poor weather made Jam IV look doubtful.
"There was more excitement and enthusiasm with the classic rock than there was with the country acts."
In its fourth year Moondance Jam came of age. The Jam brought a "Who's Who" of top 40 artists whose hits spanned three decades. The Grass Roots, Guess Who, Survivor, Starship and Kansas along with two nights of great weather and a vastly improved light and sound system drew record crowds and put Moondance Jam on the concert map.
"The sound and lights were just phenomenal and a quantum leap compared to the previous Jams."
- Paul Nye
"The people in Walker really know how to party."
- Jack Jordan
Moondance Jam V featured many prominent national acts. Some of the performers in 1996 included: The Byrds Celebration, Three Dog Night, Mitch Ryder, Starship, Randy Bachman and .38 Special. Poor weather threatened all weekend, but never really let loose. However, the record breaking crowds did let loose and Moondance Jam was on its way to becoming the premiere rock music festival in the Midwest.
"Moondance Jam V, in the eyes of most who attended, continued Bieloh's tradition of improving the Jam each year."
- George Fairbanks
By 1997, more than 35,000 Jammers flocked to the festival and packed the concert site for three days. The increase in numbers was due in part to big headline bands like REO Speedwagon, America, Grand Funk Railroad and Corey Stevens. The other reason was that the word was getting around about the event. So much so that, more than 300 cars had to be turned around at the gate on Saturday night before REO Speedwagon hit the stage.
"This takes a backseat to nobody. What a great thing to be a part of."
- Jack Jordan
The Jam officially became the largest rock festival in the state of Minnesota in 1998. A crowd in excess of 50,000 were entertained and delighted by the likes of Foghat, Jonny Lang and Steve Miller Band on Thursday; John Entwistle (formerly of the Who), Alan Parsons Project, and Yes on Friday; Saturday's lineup of The Romantics, April Wine, Steppenwolf, Eddie Money and Foreigner.
Despite attempts by organizers to upgrade facilities, including an additional 160 acres of parking, the event site and the roads leading up to the fairgrounds were grid locked with traffic stretching back towards Walker for nearly seven miles. As the time approached for Jonny Lang to take the stage many people simply pulled off the side of the road, parked in the ditch and began the long walk to the fairgrounds. Some people walked as far as five miles to reach the Jam site. Despite the gridlock, there was a festive atmosphere among the people as they walked towards the distant sound of music. It was the most remarkable scene in the history of the Jam.
By Friday the problem had been solved and traffic flowed smoothly for the next two days and the bands brought the curtain down on the most successful and acclaimed Jam to date.
"Moondance Jam VII was a smashing success by any measurable yardstick. It was a success in terms of attendance, the weather was beautiful throughout the entire three days and the entertainers themselves seemed to feed off the huge and enthusiastic crowds. There was a sense of excitement and happiness throughout the crowd all weekend."
Two inches of rain fell on the Jam site opening day turning much of the grounds into a muddy mess. The Moondance Jam crew had to shuffle parking, camping, and shuttles to make up for approximately twenty-five percent of the grounds being saturated and to handle the tens of thousands of Jammers who traveled hundreds of miles to party with Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, The Outfield, Hank Williams Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, and many others.
Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the major highlights of Jam VIII, along with The Outfield, the mud, and the nice weather on Saturday.
"We were 100 percent happy with the crowd and the music... The last day saved us and that's the day they will remember. It has to do with classic rock. We get an older crowd and everybody is so cool."
- Bill Bieloh
Moondance Jam 2000 got big performances from the Beach Boys, George Thorogood, STYX, and Peter Frampton among the many prominent national bands who made up the best Jam lineup since it was conceived.
The lineup and perfect weather brought in record breaking crowds to camp, party, and jam the weekend away. Thousands of Jammers were able to park off-site and shuttle to the Jam site and back effortlessly.
"Moondance is made of memories, and memories are what bring this whole event alive."
- Bill Bieloh
The 10th Anniversary of Moondance Jam was highlighted with clear skies, warm temps, and a little twist in the lineup. Classic rockers from the 70's and 80's Ted Nugent, Pat Benatar, CCR, George Thorogood, Night Ranger, & REO Speedwagon were meshed with 90's groups Big head Todd & the Monsters, Blues Traveler, and The Wallflowers.
"We wanted to offer favorites for every generation."
- Bill Bieloh
"A number of Jammers who had been at previous festivals commented this year's crowd was the biggest they had seen. This year's Jam featured a new stage design with more lights and louder sound. Jammers in the dancing area directly in front of the stage were clearly impressed with not only the stage's sound power, but the sound quality as well." -George Fairbanks
For the second straight year, the Jam offered music from the 70's, 80's, and 90's with top performances coming from Journey, STYX, Indigenous, Blondie, The Scorpions, Gin Blossoms, and Loverboy.
"Bill and Kathy want to be sure that everybody who comes here, whether working or just here for the music, has a good time"
- Deb Weimann
Crew & Performer Caterer
A little rain early on, didn't put a damper on the biggest rock 'n' roll party in Minnesota. The Jam produced record crowds for Friday and Saturday. The campgrounds and fairgrounds were more organized then ever making for an incredible experience for most Jammers. Several of the bands even commented that Moondance Jam was a great place to play.
Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Boston, George Thorogood, Rick Springfield, Joan Jett, and Joe Cocker were the big names headliners along with a handful of others that put on a fantastic show.
"We do everything we can to make it better than last year."
- Kathy Bieloh
"The thing is about this place, everyone is friendly."
- George Wetherbee
"It's gotten better every year."
- Linda Nelson
Lucky 13 turned out to be all of what its name implied. Four days of perfect weather, great music, and great people.
Record crowds showed up on Wednesday for ZZ Top and seemed to stick around for all four days. The new Moondance Jam Saloon regional stage, the friendly Jammers, and the campgrounds with all of their unique setups and activities were a ton of entertainment by themselves. Add to it all of the fantastic performances from ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Huey Lewis & the News, Rick Springfield, Santana's Gregg Rolie, The Allman Brothers, Pat Benatar, and some of the other lesser known acts, and it became an awesome spectacle. With all that said, it is hard to believe that one performer could steal the show at Lucky 13. For many Jammers, John Fogerty did just that. He wowed Jammers with a combination of his CCR tunes and solo hits that kept them dancing and clapping for the entire show.
The 2004 event goes down as one of the best (if not the best) Jams in its 13 year history.
"I can't think of any bands that weren't fun to deal with."
- Mark Kirchhoff
"It's just a matter of fun, music and getting away a few days."
- Paul Gebeke
"It's a better atmosphere than WE Fest."
- Karen Johnson
Fab 14 will be remembered for so many reasons it is impossible to pick out a single highlight. Every day temperatures soared & allowed Jammers hang out all day and party all night. Jammers who drove in on Wednesday won't forget the endless line of traffic trying to make it in before .38 Special and Skynyrd unleashed their tight Southern Rock assault on the largest Wednesday night crowd in Jam history. 2005 had something for everyone. Eighties rockers Tesla, Cinderella and Whitesnake wowed Jammers with their heavy rock and 80's ballads. REO and Journey brought down the house with their arena rock anthems, while Cheap Trick, Grand Funk and Blackfoot kept the 70's classic rock nostalgia.
Saturday's crowd got an emotional Tribute to Our Troops as 13 year-old Kristy Peterson sang "God Bless America" and a song she wrote with her father called "Solider Come Home" with the American Legion Post 134 Honor Guard presenting the colors. Afterward, a surprise flyover by a Blackhawk helicopter added the final touch to an emotional moment.
Fab 14 literally wore out everyone from Jammers to promoters, but in the end it improved, once again, on the positive tradition of Moondance Jam: Music, Good Times, Friendship & Celebration. Like Lucky 13, Fab 14 went down as one of the best, if not the best, Jams to date!
" Classic Rock Revisited highly recommends this event to all of our readers around the world... Moondance Jam is the premier classic rock festival in the United States."
- Jeb Wright
Classic Rock Revisited
"...the bands, parties, games, security & other staff, amenities, concert area & saloon stage and, of course, the people are second to none."
- Scotty Mac
"Well, after this Moondance will definitely be a yearly ritual with me... by far the best outdoor festival i've ever been to, in terms of organization and general atmosphere, as well as lineup--and i go to at least forty shows a year"
Grand Forks, ND
"This was even better than last year though I never thought it could be."
Dream 15 continued the tradition of the Jam: great rock music, thousands of festive fans, and a friendly campin' & jammin' atmosphere. Record crowds and record temperatures slowed jammers down a little during the early and mid afternoon hours, but as the bands hit the stage the fairgrounds were the place to be.
It was difficult to single out the top acts of the weekend because all of the bands played very good or great shows: Heart, Poison, Alice Cooper, Steve Miller, The Doobies, Nuge, The Bangles, The Guess Who, Gregg Rolie, KWS, Dennis DeYoung, Steppenwolf, Mickey Thomas, The Outlaws, Little River Band and Y&T. A great review of all of the acts can be found at Classic Rock Revisited.
Even though all of the bands were solid, Poison's show was the highlight for many Jammers. They had been requested for many years and did not dissapoint. Their sound and energy had the entire crowd singing, dancing and jammin throughout the concert.
One of the coolest spectacles of the weekend was the storm that formed when Ted Nugent hit the stage. It was as if nature knew The Nuge was taking the mic. A wall of clouds soaked in the fireball sunset moved in on the over heated crowd. As it darkened, the storm moved closer and the rain started coming down rejuvenating Jammers as Ted's energy on stage escalated. The entire show took a life of its own as lightening shot across the sky in the distance and Ted wailed on his guitar to a sea of glistening arms raised toward the sky in celebration of the surreal show of music and nature.
The Saloon Stage's regional bands rocked all four days and was highlighted by tribute bands Hairball, Zed Leppelin and the hard rockin' ladies of ThundHerStruck who wowed the late night jammers with their AC/DC covers. The Camping Contest brought out the creative side of many Jammers and the addition of the Mardi Gras Stage brought a new element of fun and more stage entertainment.
"WOW!! As first timers, we were in total awe the entire 4 days... It was so very impressive to see the lengths your staff went to, but also how organized the daily maintenance staff is."
- Lynn, Duluth, MN
"What makes this whole thing work is that we're continuing to have fun."
- Mark Kirchhoff
"Thanks for rockin' out with us! Moondance Jam kicks *ss!!! - Stephanie from ThundHerStruck, CA
"I went to Moondance on a scouting mission on behalf of our rock fest party group. My report back to them will be that we MUST get vacation days, tickets and camping lined up for Moondance 16. Not only great bands and music, but the whole event and availability of services was well coordinated and organized."
- Lucy Lounge, Fargo & Minot, ND
"What a party! The Jam totally rocked in each and every way possible!! We had 'nothin but a good time!' From the moment we arrived on Tue. night the fellow Jammers were awesome. All of our neighbor Jammers were great." - Tinman, Jammer