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'Music on the slopes'; Buena Vista to host festival

BEMIDJI - There may not be any snow adorning the hills of the Buena Vista Ski Area this time of year to attract thrill chasers, but the family owned ski business is hoping to fill the hillside with crowds this weekend regardless.

The first annual Buena Vista Music Festival hits the slopes Saturday, with six musical acts from around the state taking the stage.

"We've had this vision to have music festival for many, many years," said Suzanne Thomas, owner of Buena Vista. "This would be something unique for people to come out and enjoy during the summer, as they don't get to see Buena Vista in this way usually."

Gates to the festival open at noon, with the first act on stage at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the gate, or can be purchased in advance online at for a reduced price of $22. There is a $5 parking fee, and tent camping is available for an additional $5.

With most of the bands originating from the Twin Cities area, Saturday's music lineup will consist of bluegrass, blues, jam, rock, reggae and funk, according to Mike Huerbin, light and sound technician from 218 Productions.

Huerbin and his team had a major role in bringing the bands to the festival and will be setting up the stage for all of Saturday's acts, which include The Seasonals, May North, Nathan Miller and Unstoppable Company, The Premiums, Yasen Marie and More Than Lights.

"I've always dreamt of having a music festival on the hillside," said Huerbin, who has worked at Buena Vista Ski Area for more than 20 years. "A lot of ski resorts have music festivals in the summer, but most of them don't have the lake (Larson Lake) in the background - that's unique for Bemidji."

Thomas said the stage will be positioned at the base of the main slope, just in front of Larson Lake. With the crowd sitting on the slope, - festival-goers are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs - Thomas said organizers hope to create an amphitheater-like atmosphere.

"It's a natural setting with the continental divide and the lake," she said. "There will be spectacular scenery and we always thought it would be fun to have music on the slopes."

A non-alcoholic event, the music festival will also feature craft and food vendors for people to enjoy. Noting favorable weather conditions with temperatures in the high 60s, Thomas is hoping for a crowd of at least 500. For those camping at Buena Vista, Thomas said a community bonfire will await guests.

"I want people to see and experience the area; it's so different than in the winter," she said.

Referring to the business' long family history, Thomas said the idea to host a summer event has been around for many generations.

"My dad was always saying, 'What can we do for future generations?'" Thomas said. "And this (the music festival) is a way for us to continue that."

If you go:

What: Buena Vista Music Festival

When: Saturday

Where: Buena Vista Ski Area