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Moondance Jam
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Jammin’ in the trenches

By George Fairbanks Pioneer Staff Writer

Saturday, July 12, 2003

WALKER -- Moondance Jam 12 employee Levi Pritchett sat under an umbrella Thursday afternoon. Under ideal conditions, the umbrella would have shaded him from the sun. During the first two days of this year’s Jam, however, the umbrella was there to keep him dry.

Bloomington, Minn., native Maggie Holmer, working in the same area as Pritchett, got up every so often from her chair to direct traffic and check passes.

By his estimation, 15-year-old Pritchett, is “pretty much the youngest one out here.”

Both Pritchett and Holmer said Jammers generally pay attention to festival employees.

“Yeah … well, pretty much,” Holmer said.

Now and then a Jammer will ignore an employee’s request.

“Not a lot though,” Pritchett added quickly.

While Wednesday and Thursday’s rain showers left some standing water and plenty of mud around the fairgrounds, Pritchett noted most Jammers seemed able to ignore the rain and its aftermath.

“I don’t think it really bothered them,” said Pritchett, of Park Rapids. “The bars were still open.”

Bill Bieloh, who owns and promotes the Jam along with his wife Kathy, said Moondance 12 includes 312 employees working security, maintenance and everything between.

312 employees is the most the Jam has ever had, Bieloh said.

“We have a waiting list of 300 people who want to work this thing,” he added.

He has 12 of what he calls his lieutenants, each of whom heads up a specific area.

“My 12 top people all do their own hiring,” Bieloh said.

The 12 lieutenants are in charge of grounds, vendors, gates, band transportation, fairgrounds security, campground security, backstage, VIP area, hospitality, regional and national acts, saloons, beer and pop gardens and accounting.

Walker resident Nancy Freeman, who is in charge of vendors, has worked at all 12 Jams.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” she said.

As the festival has grown from a tiny affair in 1992 to an event drawing more than 65,000 last year. Jam employees have been left with more work.

“It’s gotten more challenging,” Freeman said.

Mark Kirchoff, of Minneapolis, who’s in charge of regional and national acts, has worked at seven Jams.

“It’s just a great festival,” he said. “The people are great to work with. And of course there’s the music.”

Like Freeman, Kirchoff noted the Jam has gotten more challenging as crowds have swelled.

“It’s the growing pains of a big event,” Kirchoff said. “You attract more and more people each year. Those are the fun challenges.”

Dave Nelson, a recent Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School graduate, is bartending at this year’s Jam.

Since the Bielohs are also Nelson’s aunt and uncle, he figures he’s attended every Jam and worked at five.

“I work out here all summer too,” Nelson said.

Before and after the Jam, Nelson works at the fairgrounds mowing the grass and handling other maintenance work.

Nelson, who will be a freshman this fall the University of Minnesota-Duluth, intends to keep working at the Jam.

“Moondance is awesome,” he said.

Pat Eischens, also a Walker area resident, has worked at eight Jams.

Eischens is in charge of the grounds.

In the days leading up to the Jam, Eischens played a key role in making sure set up went smoothly.

When asked why he keeps coming back to the Jam, he responded: “Because it’s a blast.”

To Eischens, Wednesday and Thursday’s weather didn’t seem to impact anyone’s fun.

“It’s a challenge,” Eischens said. “We have such a great staff it all comes together.”