WALKER - For a small resort community like Walker, the economic impact of Moondance Jam effects just about everyone, especially the 300 or more employees and hundreds and hundreds of others who simply volunteer their time.
The four-day concert began Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Moondance concert grounds, five miles west of Walker. Highlighting the bill Thursday were Black Oak Arkansas, the Gin Blossoms, STYX and Meat Loaf.
More than 60,000 concert goers are expected to attend the event over the four days and about 10,000 will be camping, making the Moondance campgrounds - by far the largest center of population in Cass County and one of the largest in central Minnesota.
For the hired workers, the concert means an extra income for a few days; for numerous non-profit organizations in the Walker area, the event is a major source of funds; and for area businesses, a source of extra profits. But everyone agrees, Moondance Jam is the event of the summer and good time, despite long hours of work in the hot sun.
One of the regulars at Moondance is Pat Crow, formerly of Walker and now of Windom, Minn. While she has moved from the community, she still opted to use part of her vacation time to work at the Jam this summer, her fifth. She described her job as the gatekeeper, in charge of some of the aspects of internal security. She helps people find out where they are supposed to be as much as keeps people out the places they don't need to be.
"I love the wildness of it," she said. "I'm an abstract, random person and I love multi-tasked jobs. This is perfect for me. But I also like the people I work with. Every year I see new faces but there is a core of regulars like myself who came back year after year. I'd miss them if I wasn't here."
Trini Wendt, a graduate student from St. Cloud State University, oversees the Moondance Information Center where all communications from around the grounds pass through and where people come when they simply have a question. Questions about tickets, passes, deliveries or just about where the bathrooms are located.
"So many questions we answer a hundred times a day," she said. "We just have to remember, for the person asking, it's the first time they've asked it. We just keep smiling and trying to help people enjoy the event. You have to like people to be working here."
Diane Johnson of Minneapolis works gate security. She has a summer cabin in the area and said she would probably be there even if it weren't a job.
"It's absolutely the funnest place to be," she said.
The majority of employees are like 15-year old Becky Wandersee of Walker, who spent Thursday morning volunteering at the Immanuel Lutheran Church soft drink tent and then the rest of the day at a paid job exchanging cash for Moondance Jam beverage and food tokens.
Moondance Jam promoters Bill and Kathy Bealoh work with a number of Walker organizations, including churches, the Jaycees, the Leech Lake Youth Hockey Association, and other youth groups who sell food and beverages and keep a portion of the profits.
"This whole event is a big boost for the community," said Lori Zubke, who's been handling the beer and liquor sales for most of the 11 years of Moondance Jam. "It's music and a lot of drinking but it's a lot of fun for everybody and good for this town."
The Moondance Jam line-up for today includes Journey, Blondie, Indigenous and Gypsy.