A packed fairgrounds came out to see Train Thursday — the start of three straight nights of perfect weather and music.

Perfect summer weather brought out record crowds

dmorrill@pilotindependent.com

After perfect weather for Jammin Country Lucky 13, Moondance Jam 28 organizers didn’t know what Mother Nature would come up with.

The weather gods came up with four nights of perfect weather as thousands of Jammers packed the fairgrounds.

Rain fell Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, but by the afternoon of each day, the sun had come out and temperatures were in the high 70’s to low 80’s. Saturday was even better yet as the sun was out all day.

Ideal weather meant nearly record, if not record, crowds came out for the campin’ and jammin’ event of the summer.

Saturday night, prior to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s performance to close the Jam, Moondance owner Kathy Bieloh was onstage to thank all the Jammers for coming out to make No. 28 a success. She also announced the dates for Moondance and Jammin Country in 2020.

“I was very happy with the weekend. We had such fantastic weather, and that, in turn, makes our customers really happy,” she said.

Of all the positive comments Bieloh hears from all the Jammers, a lot of them this year were about the bands — some of which Bieloh said she really didn’t know much about until they started to perform, and then she realized she knew all their songs.

“It’s so much fun to hear from the fans that they’ve been coming for 20 years or more, and they think we have a great event. I heard that a lot, and that makes it even more special for me,” Bieloh said.

Bieloh was impressed with all the band’s’ performances, but her favorites were Rick Springfield, Train, Goo Goo Dolls and, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band that she and Moondance founder Bill Bieloh grew up listening to.

“It was a great weekend. But I can’t do it without all our wonderful staff. They did a great job as always,” Bieloh added.

Back stage production

For Mark Kirchhoff, the back stage production director, the four-day event couldn’t have run smoother. He said it all begins with the staff working together to put on the best show possible.

“The weather has gone our way this year. Usually were fighting storms, and we’ve just had great weather for each day of the event, and that makes everything so much easier,” he said early Saturday night prior to the last two bands going on. “We’ve had good bands to work with to. All the road crews have been very professional and work well together with all the artists.”

Leading up to the Jam there were posts that the line-up this year maybe wasn’t as strong as previous years. But judging from the throngs of people that came out each night, that wasn’t the case.

“I think people were pleasantly surprised by most of the performances,” Kirchhoff said.

Leni Dimancari, who works with Kirchhoff, said he heard from a lot of people. “I’ve seen some really nice shows this weekend. The big thing for us is when everything slides through with maybe an occasional hiccup.”

What also makes the Jam such a great success are the 30-some regional bands from around the Midwest that perform on the other three small stages.

“The regional bands have been solid this year,” Dimancari said. “We’ve really made a conscious effort to try and find the best of the best,” Kirchhoff noted. “It’s a game of how do we out-do each other,” Dimancari chimed in. “We want to bring back the favorites and create some room to bring somebody new in,” Kirchhoff added.

Jammers pack fairgrounds

It’s hard to estimate how many people were in the fairgrounds for any band, but based on the full campgrounds its easy to assume that this year’s festival had one of the highest attendance.

Wednesday’s Pre-Jam Party got off to a great start with several thousand coming out to see The Sweet, ThundHerStruck and Mountain Ash.

Candlebox and Allen Stone opened Thursday afternoon, and by the time the packaged tour consisting of the Goo Goo Dolls and Train performed, the fairgrounds were packed.

The next day, got even better as four more bands took to the main stage. There was an estimated crowd of 18,000 in the fairgrounds when Skillet closed out the night.

On the final day, an estimated crowd of about 10,000 was on hand for the Troop Tribute, and it just kept getter bigger. By the time Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage at 10 p.m., the place was packed.

“It’s been a great Jam. Wednesday was a big night for us, with a really great crowd. Both Train and Skillet I think surprised people. They were great! And Rick Springfield had a wonderful show,” Kirchhoff noted.

The music

Goo Goo Dolls, Gov’t Mule, Skillet and Train each had a great performance, but the band that brought in the most Jammers and put on a great show was the group that closed out Jam 28.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s farewell tour was simply iconic.

It was all about the music and the instruments, as the southern-rock band uses three guitars for full power.

Train made their first appearance at Moondance — one that Jammers won’t soon forget. The Goo Goo Dolls-Train Summer Tour brought in nine buses full of gear and special effects — the most ever for two bands.

Vixen was scheduled to open Friday, but because a couple of Survivor band members got stuck in Chicago, the band had to cancel. That allowed regional band, A Hard Day’s Night, a Beatle’s tribute band, to make their first appearance on the main stage. Dressed in their Sgt. Pepper’s uniforms, they played the best of the British’s band hits.

“Unfortunately Survivor had to pull out, so we were able to brainstorm, and it worked out great. That’s the thing with live music — outdoor festivals; things happen and you have to move on. We would have loved to see Survivor, but maybe next time,” Kirchhoff said.

The four-female band Vixen was pushed to 6 p.m, Rick Springfield followed and put on another crowd-pleasing performance and Skillet closed out the night. The Christian hard rock group is known for its pyrotechnics and special effects, and they brought bus loads to share.

“The lighting, the video screens, stage sets … all that comes in. When they arrive here it’s a blank stage and all the lighting has to go up, videos walls built, staging is put together. It’s an extensive process but the crews having been doing this for so long,” Kirchhoff said. “It’s evolved over the years. The light shows are more complex, stage sets are bigger and more evolved, and there are more special effects. Every band is like a football team, you want to do better than the other guy. So it just keeps amping up.”

Despite the lengthy set-up, all the bands still performed  on time. Kirchhoff gives all the kudos to Mountain Productions, a staging company from Pennsylvania that has been in charge of getting the stage and lighting prepared for several years.

“We’ve got a great team, some who have been working here for years,” Dimancari said. “It’s all across the board with Moondance. Everyone has their role and they just continue to do it. We all work well together and it’s just an enjoyable event,” Kirchhoff added.

Camping Contest

Of the 12 campsites that were entered in the “FREE BIRD” theme Camping Contest, Camp Destiny located in North Reserved came away as the winner.

Camp Destiny, a group of 20-some Jammers from Wadena, New York Mills and Perham area, have had a theme campsite for 26 years, and this year they beat out the others to be named the grand champion.

The champions will receive six tickets for Moondance Jam 29 and got passes to the Backstage Bar and access to the poser deck for the Molly Hatchet performance Saturday night.

The two runner-ups were 50 Shades of Moondance and Fly Free Billy B, located in South and North Reserved respectively.

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