Jam just for fun, says businessman turned rock and roll festival promoter,
BY LOUIS HOGLUND
Lake Country Echo
July 17, 1997
What started more or less as a musical gathering of friends and some
guests has evolved into a party of regional scope, with big league bands,
big crowds and a big budget.
Moondance Jam wrapped up its sixth annual weekend of rock music and
revelry--attracting crowds averaging about 10,000 each night. For the
first time, the music festival was a three day affair, July 10-12.
"Really, we do this mainly for fun," said Bill Bieloh, the
Walker area business- man and promoter of Moondance Jam, on his property
east of Walker. "Almost everybody who works out here are friends
and family. All of us are involved in a tourism-related economy, so we
look at this as kind of a mid-summer break."
Describing Moondance as a leisurely "break" from the busy
summer season appears an extreme understatement. This mid-summer diversion
requires an army of workers, an incredible array of logistic challenges – and
a budget that is approaching $300,000.
In contract payments for bands and entertainment alone, the sixth annual
Moondance totaled $190,000, according to Bieloh. Costs associated with
booking the headline act, REO Speedwagon, were nearly $50,000, according
to Bieloh. "I calculated it at about $1,700 per minute," laughed
Bieloh. "But I really don’t have a
problem with that price. You have to spend money to bring in bands that
bring in people."
For a music enthusiast with roots in 1970’s rock and roll, Moondance
is Bieloh’s idea of a great time in the good old summertime.
Many business colleagues in the Walker area say that Moondance is the
busiest, highest sales volume weekend of the entire year. For some businesses,
Moondance fuels more business activity than Walker’s other trademark
attraction: The International Eelpout Festival.
"WeFest, the nationally-known country music festival in Detroit
Lakes, was the inspiration behind Moondance," said Bieloh. He had
attended the 1989 WeFest, and conceived the idea of a "small" festival
to promote his horseback riding and Moondance Ranch park businesses.
"The first couple of years were a disaster... We didn’t know
if we were country or rock music," said Bieloh. Also, the Moondance
festivals consistently lost money.
Bieloh, his staff and the promoters settled on a classic rock formula
for the festival. Finally, two years ago, Moondance broke even. Last
year, it earned a modest profit. By Saturday night, as a record crowd
was forming for the final concerts, Bieloh was predicting a solid profit
for the 1997 Moondance.
Profits are welcome, but Bieloh insists that money is not the main motivation
In fact, his greater concern is that the festival will become "too
big." He said he will prevent that from happening by limiting sales,
if necessary. He said he would prefer to determine a logical and reasonable "sell-out" point.
When sales reach that level, tickets will no longer be available, keeping
the crowd at a manageable and comfortable level.
"We really do this for fun," said Bieloh. "Look at it
this way, you spend $40 to $50 for one concert in the Twin Cities. Here,
you spend $40 and you can see 18 bands."