WALKER -- The founders of Moondance Jam have declared the outdoor music festival a success, despite the heavy rains that "crashed the gate" on opening day and prompted emergency measures to rescue the three-day event.
The eighth edition of the Jam concluded Saturday night before a capacity crowd of about 20,000 who rocked and swayed under clear skies for the first time since the event got under way Thursday in a light, steady rain.
On opening night a smaller-than-anticipated crowd of about 10,000 heard .38 Special, Eddie Money and REO Speedwagon. But the music seemed secondary to the desperate struggle to stay dry, both on and off the stage.
The events principals, Kathy and Bill Bieloh of Walker, interviewed late Sunday, said the heavy rains of more than two inches that fell at the rural Walker site Thursday forced them to take several emergency steps to deal with rain-related problems.
First they moved all public parking off the site Friday and Saturday, converting the 80-acre lot into a makeshift campground to accommodate 1,800 campers whose reserved sites were under water.
Then they rented a dozen extra school buses to shuttle the thousands of ticket holders to and from remote parking lots at Northern Lights Casino and an empty field owned by John Anderson a couple miles west of the Moondance gate.
The Jam's work crew of more than 300 temporary employees went to work draining and landscaping roads and fields. They even stripped the hay bales from the open-field spectator area and spread them across an 80-acre campground where about 5,000 campers slogged through ankle-deep mud.
The Bielohs praised the Moondance audience, particularly the campers, for their patience, saying, "We got no complaints."
The legendary traffic snarls did not materialize this year, in part because of the rain, Bieloh said, but also because Moondance opened its gates a day earlier this year with a concert Wednesday night.
The promoters expected crowds of about 20,000 for each of the three days, but the rains kept people away Thursday. That still left a sizeable crowd because about 75 percent of the tickets are pre-sold. Overall, attendance equaled or slightly bettered last year's gate, the promoters said.
Area police reported a few arrests during the three-day festival but "no one got seriously hurt," Bieloh said. About 150-200 underage drinkers were kicked out of the event, which has a no-tolerance policy, he said.
"We were 100 percent happy with the crowd and the music performances," Bieloh said. "There were a few minor incidents but you can expect that when you get thousands of people together.
"But they (the campers) were taking their time getting out (of Moondance) on Sunday, they were polite to one another, they were smiling and laughing," he said. "The last day (Saturday) saved us and that's the day they will remember. It has to do with classic rock. We get an older crowd and everybody is so cool."