Bands, jammers 'heat up' Moondance
by Dean Morrill, Editor
Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
Record-setting temperatures during Moondance Jam Dream 15 kept medical
and other staff busier than normal, making sure jammers were taken
The 15th anniversary festival — held Wednesday through Saturday
at Moondance Fairgrounds — was one of the hottest on record as
the temperature reached 100-plus degrees on the final day of the four-day
Temperatures rose from the mid-80s on Wednesday to the high 90s both
Thursday and Friday. But despite the heat and humidity, the fairgrounds
and camp sites were packed.
An estimated 20,000 Jammers attended Wednesday's opening night, with
the Steve Miller Band headlining and pulling in the majority of the crowd.
Those numbers dropped off Thursday night to only 15,500, but rebounded
to about 19,500 Friday night. Poison replacing The New Cars was the biggest
Saturday, Heart filled the fairgrounds as just over 20,000 jammers came
out to push gate receipts for four days to nearly 75,000.
"It went exceptionally well, considering the heat," Bill
Bieloh said Sunday afternoon.
Kathy Bieloh thought it was fantastic. "Yes,
the heat wrecked our days, but the people still had a fun time."
She also mentioned the economic impact the Jam has
for the community. "Our
community is so supportive of the business this brings in."
The biggest loss was felt at the refreshment and concessions stands
as sales dropped because of the hot and humid temperatures. Bill Bieloh
said the heat also took something away from the festival atmosphere.
One area that was greatly improved was the traffic congestion that has
occurred along Highways 371 and 200.
The Bielohs lauded the work of the Cass County Sheriff's Department,
Minnesota State Patrol and Cass County Commissioner Jim Dowson for coming
up with a plan to eliminate traffic problems that backed up traffic all
the way to Walker at the 2005 Jam. Opening campgrounds Tuesday instead
of Wednesday also helped alleviate traffic congestion.
Both Bill and Kathy Bieloh credited the work of the staff, which this
year swelled to the largest ever at 312 workers, for keeping the jammers
The Bielohs were also especially proud of Friday night's Troop Tribute
to service members serving in Iraq. Area soldiers Eric Alger, the Bielohs'
nephew David Nelson and Kris Kolkin were brought on stage by the Kimball
Post 261 Honor Guard.
A video highlighting the Iraq mission and the All American
Dance Team performance concluded the tribute.
Mix in a little heat
Throughout the Jam's history, there have only been four times where Mother
Nature cooperated, last year was the most recent.
This year, workers not only had to battle the heat and humidity, but
rain, wind and electrical storms.
Mark Kirchhoff, the backstage director for seven out of the last 10
years, said organizers were more than extremely cautious.
"Our biggest concern is for the crew. They're here first thing
in the morning and are the last to leave at night. We want to make sure
they're fed and watered, and get plenty of fluids throughout the day
and divide the days up so everyone gets a break," Kirchhoff explained.
He said some days it's harder than others, especially Thursday night
when thunder and lightning storms arrived and threatened to halt the
"Our concern is keeping people safe. The stage company is always
very concerned; we're tracking the weather every 15 to 20 minutes and
keeping an eye on it if it does turn," Kirchhoff said. "Luckily
that wasn't an issue. We didn't have to get everybody off the stage or
away from it."
Despite the record-breaking heat, the Jam ran fairly smoothly, with
nearly all the bands making their scheduled start times.
The electrical crew was kept busy Friday, rerouting a few pieces of
"Electrical gear and water don't mix really well. But the show
went on," Kirchhoff said. And it was on time.
Making the Jam better
Each year, the Bielohs and their 18 department heads (lieutenants)
meet, discuss and come up with ideas on how to make the Jam better.
Twelve years ago the lineup changed from regional to national acts performing
on the main stage. The Bielohs built the Moondance Saloon; camping was
added; more parking; a softball complex; a bigger stage; throw in the
JumboTron; and an addition to the Saloon all followed.
Last year a poser deck was built so fans got a chance to watch the bands
perform. This year, another poser stage was added for Jammers who purchased
Kirchhoff, the lead guitarist for the Mountain Ash
band, has seen the Jam grow leaps and bounds since he first arrived
at Jam 4. "It get
a little bit bigger a little bit better each year."
The poser deck was such a hit in 2005, the biggest challenge was trying
to get all the people up there. This year, Total Entertainment Group,
owned by Darren Stewart and based out of Winfield, Kan., was able to
add a second platform on the other side of the stage.
"It's a nice way to view the concert from a different perspective," Kirchhoff
said. In past years, fans were rotated on stage, but this was difficult
because it's still a work environment.
"It's a nice selling point for the Jam," Kirchhoff
Zachary Paneral, Kirchhoff's nephew, was one of many first-time Jammers.
He made his first trip to Moondance all the way from of Houston, Texas.
The teen got to hang out backstage and see firsthand the inner workings
of putting the Jam on.
How the Jam stays successful
Many believe the talent is what has made Moondance so successful.
But if you talk to the Bielohs, the reason it's called the campin' and
jammin' event of the summer is because of all the hard work the staff
puts in to not only make it safe, but better than the previous year.
"Our staff was superb. I heard a lot of good comments from new
people who said our people were so helpful and nice," said Kathy
Kirchhoff noted the relationship between all the workers is crucial.
Total Entertainment is one of those key components to making the Jam
a success. The workers arrived mid-morning Monday after driving all night
from Chicago where they had just put on a concert. Stewart's crew provides
the sound, lighting, staging and stage hands for the production part
of the event.
"These people are great and are easy to work with and will do whatever
it takes to make the festival successful," Kirchhoff stated. "It's
been a great relationship, and we hope it continues for years and years.
That's what makes it easier for everyone else to make the Jam successful."
Others who play a part in the show's success are the other department
heads. Security and medical are paramount when dealing with 20,000-plus
crowds and a heat index of 100-plus.
Bill Bieloh said this year there were more heat-related
incidents — about
20 on Friday alone — but Mona Glassman and her EMT team were up
to the task, and none were serious.
Kirchhoff added that while music is the initial draw, people love to
camp, and that's where you need the support staff.
"What makes this whole thing work is that we're continuing to have
fun. We hope it goes on for years and years," he said.
Grading the music
Scorching temperatures may have hurt refreshment and concession
sales during the four-day festival, but gate receipts still topped off
at 75,000, making Dream 15 another successful Jam.
The festival kicked off Wednesday with the Steve Miller
Band, Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX, The Guess Who and Little River
Band performing. Most jammers came out for the Steve Miller Band to
hear his "greatest
hits," which happens to be one of the top-selling albums of all
Thursday night, past performers Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper closed out
the show. Both attract a large following, but thunder and lighting storms
during both shows kept some of the fans away.
Poison's first appearance at Moondance pushed the
numbers over 20,000 Friday night. The "hair band" put on
an incredible performance, even shaking hands and having their pictures
taken with many of their fans.
The Jam closed on a high note Saturday. The rising mercury kept many
jammers at their campsites for most of the early performances, but the
crowd grew to 20,000 as Heart took the stage just after 11 p.m.
The Doobie Brothers, who went on just before Heart, showed why they
are considered one of the country's greatest bands by playing all their
hits from 30 years in the business.
Bill Bieloh said the Doobie Brothers, The Guess Who and Steve Miller
Band were his favorites this year.
Kathy Bieloh said her favorites were Steve Miller Band and the Doobie
Brothers. She was really pleased with Poison's performance.
"They were absolutely awesome. Bret [Michaels]
was so sincere when I met him. He told me this is a 'class-act festival,'
and he would like to come back again.
Thunderstruck was the biggest surprise of the Jam, receiving the biggest
raves of all the regional bands. Many fans went online requesting they
be moved to the main stage next year.