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Music festivals gearing up for summer performances

The stage was going up at the Moondance Jam concert grounds near Walker this week, in anticipation of the likes of country western stars Miranda Lambert and the Zack Brown Band, who will be performing there as part of Jammin Country Fest, June 17-19. Pioneer Photo/Robby Robinson

While the economic recession may be affecting how Americans spend their entertainment dollars, apparently music lovers still find the means to get to their favorite summer concerts, according to several area summer music festival organizers.

Moondance Jam and Jammin Country Fest owner and promoter Bill Bieloh said, if anything, at least for this summer, Bemidji's nearest two music festivals in Walker have grown in their attraction as ticket sales for the two jams are 10-12 percent ahead of what were sold at this point in 2009.

Jammin Country Fest 2010 is set for June 17-19 with a line-up highlighted by Martina McBride, Academy of Country Music Top Female Vocalist Miranda Lambert and the Grammy Awards Best New Artist award recipient, Zac Brown Band. The main stage will also feature Neal McCoy, Kelly Pickler and the classic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others.

In July, Moondance Jam, the largest classic rock format in the region, will present the classic bands REO Speedwagon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar, Cinderella and Jonny Lang.

Also performing are some more contemporary groups such as Black Stone Cherry, Collective Soul, Hoobastank, , Buckcherry, Tonic and Blackberry Smoke. Moondance Jam is set for July 15-17, with a free pre-jam party Thursday, July 14.

Looking at Google search under music festival attendance, the figures and the number of sell-outs nationwide apparently reflect regional numbers. Many are experiencing record ticket sales.

In Eau Claire, WI, County Jam marketing director Kathy Wright said ticket sales for the June 22-24 festival are "on par with where they need to be for this time of the year."

"I think it's an industry-wide phenomenon that music fest fans, in a tight economy, will hold out to the last minute get their tickets," Wright said. "But it gets to be such an important part of their summer recreation that they eventually find a way to get there."

In Walker, Bieloh said the only thing that marred the 2009 Moondance Jam was the weather, which turned out to be cold and windy for most of the weekend. That may have affected the single-day and two-day weekend pass sales, which were somewhat behind those of 2008.

"Most comments about our line-ups this year have been very, very positive," said Bieloh. "Buckcherry opened for KISS and almost blew them off the stage and for Jammin Country Fest, we've really picked up our talent. The Zac Brown Band is currently one of the hottest in the county, right now."

Moondance Jam began 19 years ago as a little party on some land that had been recently acquired by Bill and his wife, Kathy Bieloh. Within a few years, the event had grown to a four-day classic rock music festival and, with more than 20,000 fans, one of the largest in the country.

The country version, Jammin Country Fest is in its fourth year and, although not quite as popular as the classic rock festival, draws rave reviews from those who attend, said Bieloh.

"We always do our best to make sure the jammers get the best experience we can offer," said Bieloh. "We just need to have three or four nice days. Last year it was just too cold. We just need some warm weather."

Jammin Country Fest begins June 14 with the Pre-Jam party for everyone with a ticket. Tickets can be purchased for one, two or three days. Reserved camping is still available but selling fast, noted Bieloh, but the unreserved campgrounds will hold many more concertgoers.

The public can call 877-moonjam or go to for more information.