WALKER -- Classic rock doesn't die, it goes to the fourth festival at Moondance Ranch and creates the biggest Jam to date.
Moondance Jam IV, the July 7 and 8 music showcase at Walker's Moondance Ranch, combined local bands with nationally-known artists Grass Roots, The Guess Who, Survivor, Starship and Kansas to propel the event to a new level of entertainment.
"Everything basically went super, from the crowd to the crew," said Bill Bieloh, Moondance Ranch owner. "We estimate attendance at 5,000 Friday and 8,000 Saturday."
After three years without a precise musical direction and not being plagued by inclement weather, TEA Productions out of Minnetonka, Minnesota approached Bill and Kathy Bieloh about working with Moondance Jam IV.
"We wanted to help the festival seek out its own identity," said Jack Jordan of TEA Productions. "So we decided to focus on the oldies. It's a musical format that attracts young and old alike.'
The festival turnout attested to that wide appeal, drawing teenagers, Generation Xers, Baby Boomers and even a few outside those demographics.
"This is great," said Wayne Zahn of Gary, Minnesota. "I'm 48 years old and I've never been to a concert. This is just a treat."
Some festivalgoers argued that classic rock seems better and more popular today than in the years of its origin.
"I saw the Grass Roots in 1973 in Moorhead (Minnesota) and they were better here than back then," said Kim Cigelske of Harwood, N.D.
But some performers of the genre take issue with the notion that their music is more popular today.
"I wouldn't say that it is more popular," said Jack Kale, original bassist for the Guess Who. "There were more artists and more enthusiasm back then. But [classic rock] is not going away and it seems to be growing. The younger artists aren't going to get rid of us."
The festival began Friday afternoon with the Dead Stiks, the Hackensack-based host band, initiating the festival's new stage and sound system. The group jammed on classics ranging from Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour" to souped-up blues versions of Elvis Presley favorites.
Moondance Jam IV demanded a bigger and better sound and light system, provided by Creative Sound and Lights from Madison, Wisconsin.
"We were under the impression that Creative Sounds and Lights was bringing in a $250,000 system, but it turned out to be more like $1 million worth of equipment," said Paul Nye, project coordinator. "The sound and lights were just phenomenal and a quantum leap compared to the previous Jams."
The Park Rapids based Ripchord next took the stage.
"It was a wild time," said Steve Robbins, Ripchord bassist. "The audience wasn't real active, but they applauded and were loud after the songs."
The Grass Roots, celebrating the group's 30th anniversary, played their crowd-pleasers. "Midnight Confessions," "Sooner or Later," "Temptation Eyes" and "Live for Today."
"You wanted the New Kids on the Block, but you got the old farts on the road," said Grass Roots lead vocalist Rob Grill in a between-song dialogue.
The Guess Who headlined Friday night's show, rocking the audience with their hits "American Woman," "No Time," "These Eyes" and "No Sugar Tonight," as well as tunes from their upcoming release "Liberty."
Saturday morning drenched the Moondance Ranch grounds with two inches of rain. Although the rain subsided for the rest of the day and night, the festival area remained muddy and sloppy.
"Saturday was slowed down by the rain and the mucky grounds, plus Kansas miscalculated their travel distance by 200 miles and came in late," Nye said.
Coordinators brought the festival back on schedule by cutting the stage time of Saturday's regional bands. Bob Schmid and Julie Shafer of Brainerd, Hands Down of Bemidji, and High Tolerance of Minneapolis warmed up the soaked festival grounds for Saturday's national acts.
Survivor played their hits "High on You" and "I Can't Hold Back" and brought audience members rushing towards the stage with their hit from Rocky III, "Eye of the Tiger."
Starship, featuring Micky Thomas, performed favorites such as "Jane," "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" and "We Built This City," as well as an unexpected rendition of the Beatles "Rocky Raccoon."
Kansas, Saturday's headliners, gave a pragmatic performance of songs from their latest release and their hits "Point of No Return," "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son."
"Kansas proved to be a bit of a disappointment," Nye said. "It wasn't entirely their fault, with the mud and being late. They were top-notch musicians and played great, but the crowd didn't respond as well to them as the other acts."
But overall, Nye and Bieloh called Moondance Jam IV a success. They commended John Fiske and the crew, the numerous volunteers, the Cass County Posse Security, and the Turtle Lake Township.
The Jam's high attendance proved beneficial to the concession stands on the ranch site, as well as many other businesses not associated with the festival.
"Business has been great," said Mara Loomis, concessionaire at the Emporium Pizza stand. "Plus, it has been really fun working here."
Moondance Jam IV attracted people from all over Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa. The concertgoer who traveled the furthest was DiDi Steinbacher from Lubeck, Germany, who came from Minneapolis to visit friends.
Plans for next year's Moondance Jam are already underway. Based on the Jam's comment cards, Bieloh hopes to bring in .38 Special and Electric Light Orchestra. Bieloh also plans to provide an even bigger campground area.
"All the comments I got were real positive," said Bieloh. "Everybody told me that they wanted to come back next year."
"It was enjoyable dealing with so many friendly people," Jordan said. "The people in Walker really know how to party."