WALKER — The 90-degree heat Friday and Saturday was of major concern to the staff at the 15th annual edition of Moon Dance Jam “Dream 15,” said musical festival owner and promoter Bill Bieloh.
The four-day festival came to a close Saturday with a final day card that included John Kay and Steppenwolf, The Doobie Brothers and Heart. Fridays final act, Poison, a last minute addition to replace The New Cars who had to cancel their tour, did not disappoint the 20,000 fans, very few of whom stayed for the entire set.
The word to staff, said Bieloh at the pre-concert meeting was to stay in the shade and drink lots of water. On Friday, there were about 20 heat-related first-aid incidents, all of which were handled on the grounds by EMTs.
Four-wheeled carts, normally used for transporting people around the concert grounds, and camping area were replaced by six-wheeled carts so individuals suffering from heat problems could more easily be transported to the medical stations.
Bieloh said twice as many EMTs were on the grounds Saturday, as well.
Surprisingly, the heat affects beverage sales in a negative way, said Bieloh.
“The extreme heat takes away something from the festival atmosphere,” Bieloh said. People just want to stay cool. They buy less beer, soft drinks and even shirts and food. Bottled water sales are pretty good, though.”
With approximately 70 percent of the concert-goers living within 25 miles of Walker, the Jam is truly a regional event, giving the Walker area an economic shot in the arm each summer. Not only do businesses supplying the food, beverages and services enjoy the benefits, but individuals do as well. Moondance Jam employs 312 people of all ages, most of whom live in the area.
Park Rapids Tyler LaRosa and Tony Sperle, both 16, help manage traffic and assist campers in finding their way around. Both said they love the work and plan to come back.
“I’m a big Poison fane,” added LaRosa.
Retired Iowa teachers Don and Jean Kruse, now living on Woman Lake, say they don’t do it so much for the money, but more so for the social aspects.
“It gives us a good chance to get out and meet the people and experience the atmosphere,” said Jean.
With so many people in one place, many of whom consuming alcoholic beverages, a Cass County Sheriff’s deputy said he is surprised at the general good behavior of Jam fans and the small number of incidents.
Looking to 2007, Bieloh said his staff are already talking about how they can make things better and more efficient. Bieloh and his wife gave up a lucrative grocery business in 2004 to focus on managing the annual music fest, which began in 1992. Along the way, they have concentrated on making things smoother, more enjoyable and more efficient, rather than making it bigger, he said.
Asked about next years’ line-up, Bieloh said he had several previous Moondance acts in mind, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and Tom Petty.
As for Don and Jean Kruse, do they plan to be back in 2007.
“Certainly,” said Jean. “We love being around the young people. It’s like being at the high school again teaching. They’re having so much. It’s a hoot.”