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Moondance Jam
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Jammin' at Moondance 12

Dean Morrill, Editor
The Pilot-Independent

Tuesday, July 15th, 2003

In 12 short years Moondance Jam has grown into Minnesota's largest outdoor rock 'n' roll venue that attracts some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll.

Bill Bieloh remembers previous years when the promoter's long and tedious task was to sign big-name performers. It continues to be a lot of work, but these days there's one big difference.

"Moondance is getting so well known, we have the bands calling us instead of us calling them," Bieloh said.

To put on a festival that is becoming so renowned starts with the music, and that's what draws the people in. But in addition to that, said Mark Kirchhoff, the main stage crew chief, you have to feed the people, got to have a place for them to stay, and you need security, food vendors, beverages and grounds people to maintain the grounds. "Everyone kind of does their role, and every year we all learn something and find easier ways and keep growing."

Throughout its existence, which was fashioned after the Benedict Jam Bill Bieloh held in the late '70s and early '80s, the Jam has grown from a small number of bands to more than 40 national and regional bands performing on one main stage and in two tents.

"And Bill being Bill," Kirchhoff continued, "he is constantly improving the grounds and continues to go out and get the best bands available.

This year he plopped down more than $200,000 for Boston, Friday night's headline act.

"We do everything we can to make it better than last year," Kathy Bieloh commented.

This year that included adding more camping, improving the grounds and angling the stage for more spectator viewing.

The move paid off. Despite numbers down 20 percent Wednesday and 15 percent Thursday due to heavy rain, Friday and Saturday crowds broke records. Estimated gate receipts were 19,000 Friday, and 20,000 Saturday.

"Wednesday and Thursday hurt, but we regrouped with the largest crowd ever for a Friday night," Bill Bieloh said.

Numbers in for the four-day event show a gross slightly higher than last year.

"I think it went fantastic. I don't think it could have been a better crowd," Kathy Bieloh added. "The bands were great."

Bieloh, who said she didn't consider herself a Rick Springfield fan, thought his performance was one of the Jam's highlights, citing several male jammers who also came in not as fans, but were equally impressed in how he got the record crowd warmed up for Sammy Hagar and Alice Cooper.

"He really put on a show. Dancing on the fence line. That was awesome," She stated.

The Bielohs and the fans weren't the only ones raving about the bands, some of the national acts passed around kudos.

Boston, which kicked off their summer tour at the Jam, loved the Walker area and the Jam. It was the first time in 12 years they've played an outdoor venue.

"Overall, it was just a huge success. The Jammers were happy, saying they couldn't wait until next year," said Bill Bieloh from the Jam site Sunday afternoon. "Everybody was smiling as they were leaving." They weren't the only ones. Bieloh said Sammy Hagar made the comment that of all the outdoor performances, this was definitely the best and most fun.

The Jam has grown tremendously over the past seven years.

Kirchhoff said the transformation began when Bill Bieloh came up with the idea of putting bands in the tents. From there it has grown.

The increase of Jammers over the past few years indicates the Jam continues to keep getting bigger and better.

To put a festival on like this, you need some extraordinary people, both Kirchhoff and Bieloh said.

Kirchhoff said Bill Bieloh's motto is, "We'll keep doing it as long as everyone is having fun. 'Now the only reason this is going to happen is because all you guys are working hard.' And we're having fun and we want to keep doing this."

Bieloh said that should put to rest the rumors that We Fest, held near Detroit Lakes every summer, has bought out the Jam. He emphatically said "Noooo" to the Jammers prior to Alice Cooper taking the stage Saturday night. He followed by thanking the many people who each year make the Jam possible.

"We're having fun. We look forward to it all year. It is a full-year planning project. But when you look out and see people having a good time, it's great. That's our mission here," Kirchhoff stated.

From an incident standpoint, Kathy Bieloh said it was boring. There were only a small number of minor offenses by the thousands of jammers. "Everything for the most part went great. I had some calls right away from people upset about their campsites."

A good 80 to 90 sites were rained out. Those people were crammed into some of the remaining sites.

"I felt so bad, but we have no control over the weather. I want to thank everyone for working with us." Because of a limited amount time on stage Saturday night, she said she couldn't publically apologize for cramped camping problems the rain caused.

Moondance Jam also brings a tremendous boost to the Walker community. The economic impact is estimated at $14 million.