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Moondance Jam
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Moondance campgrounds one big party

By Don Davis, The Forum

Thursday, July 15, 2004

WALKER, Minn. – The trio of North Dakota men looked a bit like mountain climbers claiming a new peak. Or warriors claiming new territory.

Instead, they were doing the same thing about 6,000 other campers were doing Wednesday – turning an open field into home for four days. Bob Collins, brother Mike Collins and Paul Gebeke, the first of 13 Fargo-area campers and classic rock music fans to arrive at their special spot at Moondance Jam, struggled raising a flag pole.

Bob Collins of Horace looked up and wondered: "Why is your Minnesota soil so hard?"

There was no answer and little luck. Stakes meant to hold wires supporting the pole bent, stakes already pounded into the soil pulled out and one wire ended up too short. But there was not a sour note heard.

"We've got four days to put up the flag," Bob Collins said.

His brother, Mike of Valley City, has been looking forward to this, his first Moondance trip, for months. They signed up for camping spots before performers were even announced. "We put faith in the organizers," Mike Collins said.

Thirteen Fargo-area 34- to 37-year-old friends planned to have a good time at the 13th anniversary of the Moondance Jam classic rock music festival southeast of Walker.

"It's just a matter of fun, music and getting away a few days," said West Fargo's Gebeke.

If music flows from the stage, fun comes from the campgrounds, where 6,000 campers party nonstop.

Friends who rent several camping spots together during the four-day festival often establish a theme. A group from northwestern Minnesota picked a carnival setting.

"Everyone loves to play games," Wendy Maurstad of Argyle said. "You make friends this way."

The no-cost games include dingle ball, bean bag toss and a trivia contest. But the favorite was picking a toy duck out of a tub of water, winning the prize listed on the bottom.

Maurstad allowed people to try until they won the prize they came after – a "Jello shot," gelatin combined with alcohol. Even Maurstad and many of the 17 others in her group tried out the colorful prize now and then.

To the north a few hundred yards, Bob Collins' crew took a meal break. The reluctant flag wasn't their big concern.

Collins couldn't wait to hear ZZ Top later Wednesday – "I've been listening to them since I was old enough to know what they were."

His wife, Angie, had her sights set on Rick Springfield on Saturday night.

Today, regional bands take the stage in the afternoon in-between national groups such as the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.