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In this 2004 file photo, Sarah Hormann, center, of Minneapolis fans herself from the heat and smoke under a parachute called the "puffdome" during the 10,000 Lakes Festival at Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes. (Forum file photo)

Rock rolls in to jam fest

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As the Soo Pass gates outside of Detroit Lakes, Minn., open this morning to the seventh 10,000 Lakes Festival, organizers are using more than just jam (bands) to attract music fans.

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In addition to festival favorite bands like Widespread Panic, Umphrey's McGee and Wookiefoot, acts as diverse as indie rockers Wilco, Twin Cities hip-hop act Atmosphere and honky-tonk guitarist Junior Brown were booked. To top it off, one of the most popular bands in America, Dave Matthews Band, was signed as Saturday's headliner.

Promoters expected DMB and the 50 other acts to draw around 25,000 music fans, about 10,000 more than average.

But on Monday Chyrll Sparks, one of the event's producers, said the numbers would not meet expectations.

"I can't figure it out. I'm not disappointed, but I'm a little surprised," she said Monday.

Sparks estimated ticket sales around 14,000, which is already up 500 from last year, but down from the festival's peak of 18,000 two years ago.

Promoters thought single-day tickets for the Saturday finale, featuring DMB, soul band Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and the multicultural rockers Ozomatli, could reach 15,000. The tally was only a third of that by Monday.

Still, producers aren't too worried. Sparks said the bands were already paid for and that the single-day sales were up 10 percent over average.

"The goal was to build up the credibility of the event by bringing in as broad a base as we can," said co-producer Randy Levy. "People love the show, so how do you get it so more people love the show? Well, you just try to buy a bigger and better show."

Levy said DMB is the biggest act ever at 10K, but others could be on the horizon. Classic rock staples Tom Petty and Santana and the young, hip rock act Kings of Leon are all acts he feels could fit into a natural progression from 10K's jam band roots.

"The jam has moved on, and the rock has moved in," Sparks said.

"I think the opportunity is out there for lots of different types of music," Levy said.

"Trying to build the audience of tomorrow while making the audience of today happy is the balance," said Chris Frayer, artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The event sold 55,000 tickets for five days of music two weeks ago.

He said the Folk Fest has steadily expanded its base from Americana roots and world music acts over 36 years.

Beyond a reputation as a hippie fest, 10K may carry another tag for wary concertgoers.

Three fatal drug overdoses during the past two festivals may have hurt its reputation, Sparks said.

"We're just trying to have a nice music festival," Sparks said. "People have this perception that it's all college kids drinking like they're at Senor Frog's in Mexico for spring break, and it's nothing like that. They don't drink a lot. They can't afford to drink a lot."

While ticket sales may be slower than expected, there is buzz around the shows, says Angela Budke of Lakes Radio, which includes Lakes 99.5 in Detroit Lakes and Z 103.3 in Fergus Falls, Minn.

"Our 10K tickets flew out the door," she said, adding that the festival is more popular than ever.

Sparks still thinks the overall tickets will pass 20,000, a first for 10K.

"You just have to be patient," Levy said. "Put it on and they will come."

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