A music festival near Walker on July 18-19 is expected to draw nearly 5,000 people to the area, possibly more, rivaling Walker’s Fourth of July Celebration.
The festival is the brainchild of veteran musician and promoter Doug Spartz of Hackensack and Bill Bieloh, owner of Bieloh’s Family Foods and Moondance Ranch in Walker.
Posters circulated early last week say the event will feature "the top entertainment in the Midwest." Groups like the Fantastic Convertibles, The Classics, Fever, Sparky and the Time Pirates and The Blenders are just a few on the lineup. The Blenders, an a Capella group, were recently featured on the Arsenio Hall Show and are presently on the national tour circuit, according to Spartz.
Preparations for the event have reached into the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. The investment so far is paying off, as public interest has been high. Jennie Berg from the Leech Lake Area Chamber of Commerce said the chamber is handling about 20 inquiries a day between walk-ins and phone calls. "People want to know general information like bands and times," Berg said.
Bieloh noted that site preparation has been extensive. Mark Olson Electric installed 200-amp electrical service to meet band and concession requirements for nearly a dozen corporate sponsors. A few weeks ago, Turtle Lake Township widened and upgraded the township road leading to the ranch. Both Spartz and Bieloh noted that they have gotten a lot of cooperation from the Turtle Lake Township Board and the county board who recently approved an assembly permit for the event.
According to Brad Walhof, manager of KLZ in Walker, promo spots are running on 40 stations around the state of Minnesota and the entire state of North Dakota. "We’re running 25 promos a day in northern Minnesota," he said. About an estimated turnout, Walhof said he conservatively estimates about 2,000 per day. " I think if it’s successful, it could become an annual event with an even bigger lineup," he added.
Because of his hectic summer band tour schedule of over 60 shows across the Midwest, Spartz said his wife Carol has been responsible for coordinating the event as well as promotional aspects. KLZ is not involved in such as printing posters. "Carol is officially the coordinator for the Jam," said Spartz. "Bill and I throw [all these ideas] up in the air and she coordinates it all."
Promotes said they are targeting primarily a family-type audience with the 12 noon to 7 p.m. time slots geared for families and the evenings for adults. Bieloh said Moondance is offering free pony rides for children under 12. An added bonus, at least for kids, will be the snow cones and cotton candy for sale. In fact, with woodtick races, a dunking tank and volleyball nets in addition to tons of food, the weekend is shaping up to be more than a music/barbecue event with its carnival-like atmosphere. Bieloh commented, "I can see this thing turning into a fair."
Chuck Thompson will provide barbecue pork and roast beef. Hamburgers and hot dogs will also be available. As Walhof put it, "There will be all kinds of different food for people to enjoy."
Bieloh said there is room for 3,300 cars to park. The performance ground will be on a 30-acre site near the stables.
Tickets for the event are $7 per day for adults and $5 for children. A special bonus is that each ticket is worth $5 in tokens at Northern Lights Gaming Casino.
If good weather holds out and the promotion pays off, the Moondance Jam promises to join the ranks of other big annual events that have put the Leech Lake area on the map as a vacation destination. As Walhof put it, "The bands in the lineup may not be household names, but I think if people come out, they will be surprised at the quality of the entertainment."