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Moondance Jam Economy

by Dean Morrill
The Pilot-Independent

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Moondance Jam is only four days long, but the dollars the festival brings into the Walker community lasts year-round.

Brad Walhof, who in addition to being Walker's mayor is the station manager for KQKK-FM and KAKK-AM — one of the Jam's major sponsors, says that this event has put Walker on the map.

When the Jam started in 1992, it was 200 people sitting on hay bales in a field listening to regional bands, he reminisced. Moondance now attracts some of the top acts, with more than 20,000 people flocking to the area to take in the four-day festival.

"You really can't measure what the Jam does for the city of Walker," Walhof explained. "We get a lot of residuals out of this event, because we attract a lot of people from all over the Midwest, and they come here and see how beautiful our area. I've talked to people who have come back and vacationed here because they enjoyed it so much."

The mayor says that is probably the most important aspect of the Jam and the financial impact is has on the community.

"We are a tourist community and we do it well," the mayor said. "People realize that when they come to an event like this, that it is a fun place to visit, and it is a beautiful area. The amount of business that we do is not just the Wednesday through Saturday event, we get a lot of business off this event throughout the year."

Walhof credits Bill and Kathy Bieloh, who have built the Jam into not only Minnesota's campin' and jammin' event of the summer, but one of the best, if not the best classic rock fests in the Midwest.

"What Bill and Kathy have done over the years is they learn from every Jam, and they just keep making it better and better. Another thing they do very well is, they have over 300 employees here, and they listen to their suggestions, and they make adjustments," said Walhof. "The Bielohs have always been good for this community; they've always done things first-class. My hat is off to them, because they do more for this community than people realize."

According to the mayor, the Jam has surpassing the Fourth of July as the biggest event in the area, bringing in the most business of any event held throughout the year.

"Any time you attract 20,000 to 25,000 people a night into a community of 1,000 people, it's going to have a huge economic impact," he noted. "All the businesses benefit, if not directly, indirectly. When some people do business, everyone does well because those dollars turn over in town. I know the convenience stores, restaurants and liquor establishments do well, but I've talked to quite a few people this weekend who went shopping downtown and really enjoyed the shops."

The Jammin Country Fest that the Bielohs added this year and that will be held three weeks prior to the Moondance starting in 2008, also is a big boost to the economy.

"It's just natural that with all the money they have invested in the grounds, facility and the infrastructure, you should hold other events," Walhof said. "It's just a natural progression that they get into country music and give those fans something to look forward to."