\You don’t have to look far to see how successful Moondance Jam 19 was.

Besides the 15,000-plus who showed up each night of Moondance Jam, restaurants, gas stations and the city beach in Walker were also packed.

“I’m super-glad to see that. I want everyone to benefit from this,” said Moondance founder Bill Bieloh. “What’s good for Moondance is good for the town, and vice versa.”

Bieloh said most of the credit for the Jam’s success goes to his 13 managers, including those in charge of camping, production, security, electrical, medical, parking, gates, hospitality and more.

“This year our managers were tested to the max. Everyone pulled together and worked together to make this a great Jam for everyone,” Bill said.

Weather has always been a factor in how the success of the Jam is measured. Last year organizers had to contend with cool and rainy weather that finally gave way to sunny skies on the final day.

This year, the weather was perfect for the first three days of the four-day festival.

The Jam started with rain showers Wednesday morning, but by afternoon the sun made its way onto the scene and didn’t leave until Saturday. Early afternoon thunderstorms on the final day were followed by more sunny skies and a few more showers that ended before Jonny Lang took to the stage.

Bill said Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the best in four years.

Thursday saw the biggest sale of single-day tickets, and Friday’s crowd was even bigger. Estimates put the crowd at nearly 16,000 Thursday, 18,000 Friday and about the same for the final night, even with intermittent rain showers.

“The weather has best great and the crowds have been good. We’re really happy with the turnout,” Bill said.

Highlights this year were Don Felder, a former member of the Eagles who sang many, if not all, of the group’s hits, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jonny Lang, the Red Rocker Sammy Hagar and REO Speedwagon, who easily put out their best performance of the six times they’ve performed at the Jam.

Every year there is something new at Moondance. This year Bill and wife Kathy added a new Tiki Bar, the Moondance Shuffle pub crawl and a karaoke contest. But the biggest addition was the filming of 10 of the 19 bands by the Blaze TV production crew that will be featured later this summer and over the next two years on DirecTV’s concert series on the 101 Network.

Backstage Director Mark Kirchhoff said this is publicity you can’t buy.

“This is a big step for Moondance. It’s going to be huge,” he said. “These shows are going to run throughout the world. That’s quite a reach.”

Kirchhoff said he believes the reason the Jam was so well attended was because of the weather and the fact that the Bielohs put together a first-rate show that everyone enjoys.

“TEA Productions did an outstanding job on the lineup that, day by day, has a little something for everyone. The lineup complements each of the bands,” Kirchhoff noted.

Plans for next year are still sketchy, but Bill promises it will be big. “We’re going to go all out for the 20th.”

A few names for the event have already been discussed, with “Final Chapter” or “Final Era” leading the way. Bill stated that doesn’t mean Jam 20 will be the last one, but may refer to a final chapter of a rock era.

The music

Making the Jam successful year after year comes down to attracting the best bands available.

Several contrasting rock, Southern rock, and blues and rock styles were presented over the Jam’s three-day run.

The first official day of the Jam featured some of the newer bands to hit the stage, including Tonic, Hoobastank, Collective Soul and Buckcherry. Sammy Hagar once again put on a bigger show to close out the evening.

Friday’s lineup drew on the traditional classic rock tone with Pat Travers, Felder, Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon all performing. Felder and REO  easily put on the best shows.

On the final day, Skynyrd, Lang, Cinderella and Black Stone Cherry brought their best to the stage, with each drawing large crowds.

The day kicked off with Blackberry Smoke, one of the premiere Southern rock bands in America, followed by modern rockers Black Stone Cherry, and glam rockers, Cinderella.

Lang, the Grammy award-winning blues performer who first performed at Moondance as a 16-year-old back in 1997, once again wowed the crowd with his guitar playing.

Skynyrd, who performed at the Jam a couple of years back, packed the fairgrounds, singing such hits as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.”

The Pre-Jam Party

Hairball, complete with all their elaborate costume changes, put on a big pyro and light show in front of the largest Pre-Jam Party crowd ever Wednesday night on the main stage.

The ‘80s rock impersonators performed in front of more than 6,000 Jammers.

The free party also included performances by Mountain Ash, Free Fallin and The Minnesota Whiskey Pigzz.

Camping contest

There’s a reason Moondance Jam is call the campin’ and jammin’ event of the summer.

Over the last seven years, Jammers have been dressing up their campsites in hopes of winning great prizes, including tickets to next year’s Jam.

This year, 26 campsites registered for the contest, with preliminary judging taking place Thursday. The next day a team of judges toured the campsites again to determine the winners.

Judging, which is completely subjective, is based on the quality and originality of each campsite.

This year’s theme was “Rock Your Generation” and could have reflected from the ‘60s to the present.

“Camping is just as much a part of the Jam as the music,” said Tim Bakken, one of the judges who also videotapes the campsites to show on the JumboTron. “These people go all out. They spend a lot of money to decorate, and we take that into consideration. A lot of them have knockout campsites. It’s all fun. It’s all about the people and the music.”

Instead of the top three campsites receiving six tickets for Jam 11, this year there was a grand champion who, besides winning tickets, also got to watch the band of their choice from one of the poser decks. The next four campsite winners won tickets.

The top campsite was “Welcome to the Jungle,” a group of 16 Jammers from the Twin Cities, Fargo and Grand Forks areas who all meet each year at the Jam.

Tied for second were Camp Moonliters, Mod Squad, Pirate Queens and Rock’n in the USA.

“This year’s been fantastic. I think every year it adds to the Jam,” Bakken said. “To put that much effort into this to win six tickets. That’s a very good prize for the people who put the effort in.”

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