Five years ago the Moondance Jam and Barbecue attracted 500-1,000 spectators and was called a success.
Last week, more than 35,000 flocked to the festival, which has experienced explosive growth in the past six years, and packed the concert site for three days.
The increase in numbers is due in part to big headline hands like REO Speedwagon, America, Grand Funk Railroad and Corey Stevens.
The other reason is that the word is getting around about the event. So much so that, more than 300 cars had to he turned around at the gate on Saturday night before REO Speedwagon hit the stage, according to Bill Bieloh, promoter of the event.
"This year was a little bigger than expected," Bieloh said. "We were hoping for 30,000 and we ended up with 35,000."
Even though thunder, lightning and rain pounded the site on Saturday for part of the day, no spirits were dampened, Bieloh said.
The thousands who attended the event were no less pleased than Bieloh about the event. "I’ve been to Woodstock, Woodstock '94, Grateful Dead concerts, and this one ranks right up there," California resident Annie Thompson, shouted, dancing in front of a six-foot speaker. "I’m coming next year."
Though the event is attracting more and more each year, Bieloh said he would like to limit ticket sales next year. "It’s a perfect size right now," he said. "We can control the situation and keep it fun at the same time."
In an article in the Echo newspaper, Bieloh stated that the Moondance cost $190,000 to put on including nearly $50,000 alone for REO Speedwagon.
"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."
Project Coordinator and "Main B.S. (backstage) Guy" Paul Nye said the concert went smoothly, although meeting the requests or "contract riders" from the bands was troublesome. Riders are items, such as food, beverages and other requests, attached to the contracts of the national acts in addition to "humongous" amounts of money they require.
"Some of the bands have huge riders, including liquor, which we nixed out," Nye said. "They request beverages, deli trays, meals and the infamous Bic lighter."
On the Loverboy request list, a Bic lighter was requested. Though it was a joke, Nye has heard of riders that included white socks and other outlandish wants. "One band listed white socks in their rider," he said. "The reason is, they don’t want to wash their socks, so they throw them out and get new ones free as a part of the rider. You’d think that a band making up to $50,000 a night could afford to buy their own, but it’s probably an issue of convenience to them. So they make it inconvenient for others to meet those requests."
Even though thc concert was a lot of work and a lot of fun to be a part of, Nye was disappointed that local Park Rapids band Ripchord was scratched from the list of performers to make room for REO Speedwagon and the rain delays.
Over 160 local and area people worked on the Moondance Jam crew, Bieloh said.
"Without their help, I don’t think we would have been able to pull this thing off."
Paul Busch, the son of Tony and Deanna Busch of Walker, works for Technical Services group in Minneapolis. Busch designed and built the staging that was used for this year’s Jam. "Evidently, it is one of the smaller stages they use," Nye said. "It measured about 45- by-65 with wings for the speakers."
The music Festival not only featured some of the greatest bands of Classic Rock, but also starred local rock groups, including Anomaly from Bemidji.
Drummer Isaiah Mooney said playing in front of such a large crowd was a satisfying and privileged experience. "I don’t think I’ve ever had an adrenaline high like this one before," Mooney said. "The fans were great and I don’t think we could have asked for more."
Moondance Jam also was a hit for festival producers Jack Jordan and Jack Thibault of T.E.A. Productions.
"This takes a backseat to nobody," Jordan said. "What a great thing to be a part of."
The duo takes part in about 200 musical events annually and finds the Moondance Jam to be one of their favorites. "The area around here is great," Thibault said.
"The people around here, have been nothing but outstanding. That is what makes this so unique."
Next year, Nye said promoters are looking at booking ZZ Top, Steve Miller, John Foggerty, The Buckinghams and many others.