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18th annual Moondance Jam opens tonight

It takes a lot of onions to make the thousands of gyro sandwiches expected to be sold this weekend at Moondance Jam in Walker. Kenny Wise and Jeremy Dickey of the Fargo-Moorhead area were busy getting ready for the anticipated 45,000 music fans. Pioneer Photo/Robby Robinson

WALKER -Tents were going up, onions were being sliced and beer was getting chilled at Walker in preparation for the 18th annual three-day classic rock music festival Moondance Jam, which opens tonight with Sheryl Crow and Journey taking the stage as the main acts at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Approximately half of the Moondance Jam campers had arrived by Wednesday evening to hear some local bands at the smaller stage in the MJ Saloon as part of the Pre Jam party or to just get set-up, socialize and cookout.

The musical talent this year will also feature Yes, Asia, Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Kansas, Lita Ford, Grand Funk Railroad, Foghat, Spin Doctors, Shooting Star, Zed Leppelin and ThundHerStruck on the main stage along with many regional acts on the Moondance Saloon regional stage and Lazy Moon Backstage Bar acoustic stage.

Owner and promoter Bill Bieloh said that approximately 15,000 music fans are expected each of the three nights of the jam, for a total of around 45,000. Most fans come from within 200 miles of Walker but many have come as far as Europe and Asia, specifically to experience what is regarded by many as the largest pure classic rock music festival in the country.

Bieloh said he was pleasantly surprised that the V.I.P. tickets that sell for $375 and Party Like A Rockstar passes, that sell for $875, were sold out weeks in advance of the jam.

"Other music events call themselves 'classic rock' music festivals," he said. "But when you look at their line-ups, those of us who grew up with the music don't recognize the names of the bands or the musicians. We've tried to stay as true to the format as possible; but it does seem to get more difficult."

Stage coordinator Mark Kirchhoff was busy Wednesday making last minute arrangements for the bands, preparing the Moondance Saloon stage for the Pre Jam Party and checking credentials of media members. Kirchhoff's own band, "Mountain Ash," performed to a small but excited crowd in the Moondance Saloon Wednesday night.

"We have a nice mix of musicians," he said. "A little of everything for everybody. It's just getting harder to land those great artists of the 60s and 70s...They're getting older and don't perform as much."

Assisting Kirchhoff backstage is Kevin Abernathy who was also excited about the festival. "We expect great weather and a good variety of talent coming to perform under the moonlight... What could be better."

Tickets still available

General admission passes for three-day, weekend and single day admission are still available at the gate.

New this year is the two-day weekend pass for Friday and Saturday at Moondance Jam. Cost is just $129 without camping or $169 with camping in the general campgrounds. Three-day general admission tickets are $160; single day tickets are $80.

Main Stage Schedule


11:00 p.m. Journey

9:00 p.m. Sheryl Crow

7:00 p.m. Kansas

5:00 p.m. Foghat

3:00 p.m. Shooting Star


11:00 p.m. Judas Priest

9:00 p.m. Whitesnake

7:00 p.m. Lita Ford

5:00 p.m. Spin Doctors

3:00 p.m. Zed Leppelin


11:00 p.m. Yes

9:00 p.m. Asia

7:00 p.m. Grand Funk Railroad

5:00 p.m. Thunderstruck

*Schedule and lineup are subject to change without notice.