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This was the best year ever for 10,000 Lakes Festival

Jake Linn of St. Cloud works on his diablo skills Saturday afternoon at 10,000 Lakes Festival. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

Year No. 7 proved to be the charm for the 10,000 Lakes Festival, with arguably the best headlining band in it's tenure, possibly the biggest crowd to date, and a quiet weekend on the security and traffic infraction front.

Prior to the festival's opening day a week ago, ticket sales were not up to expectations, as organizers had originally hoped for 30,000 concertgoers and then later aimed for 20,000.

With the advent of single-day tickets, sales were slightly below that goal as of a week ago.

Chyrll Sparks, vice president and national promotions director for Festivals & Concert Events, Inc., which stages both 10KLF and WE Fest each year at the Soo Pass Ranch, told the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead she estimated attendance at 17,000, about 1,000 short of the record.

Festival promoter Dave Weissman estimated closer to 20,000 attendees for Saturday when headliner Dave Matthews Band was scheduled.

Sparks also told the Forum she expected 10KLF to be "as big as WE Fest" in two years.

The country music festival hosts an average of 50,000 people every year - nearly three times as many people hosted at this year's 10KLF.

Weissman said Tuesday, however, that they were "hopeful" for that goal.

Still, the seventh year for the festival seemed to be one of the more successful, even if ticket numbers were slightly below initial estimates.

A new, larger stage "exceeded expectations on all fronts," Weissman said, with no mishaps to report.

Even Dave Matthews commented on the size of the stage when he went up for his set Saturday night, Weissman said.

"He hadn't done a sound check earlier, so he just got up there with his guitar he was getting everything together, and he was like, 'Man, this is a big stage,' or something to that effect," Weissman recalled.

For those who attended Matthews' set, this could explain why the band didn't start playing for a couple minutes once on stage.

There were several EMS calls to the festival, including at least two for young people who were unresponsive, but things seemed to go more smoothly at this year's fest than in the past, which saw three people die at the last two festivals.

Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon said it was a calm weekend.

"Everyone was mentioning that the crowd was very pleasant and easy to work with," Gordon said. "We've seen a big reduction in the past problems."

He said there were "quite a few" illegal substance possession citations given out, but that has changed from a previous focus on trying to nab the dealers -- a positive sign.

The State Patrol handed out about 70 misdemeanor drug citations and about a dozen felony drug charges were tied to the festival this year.

"This year we had as many undercover people out as possible and the indications I got from undercover was that there were fewer dealers, which is what we were going for, so the focus went over to possession," he said.

Interspersed in the possession citations were a few disorderly conducts and minor consumption tickets, Gordon said.

Traffic, too, was smooth sailing, he said, other than a back up at Willow Street and Highway 59 on Sunday when most concertgoers were leaving.

One reason for the less aggressive crowd, Gordon said, was the pleasant weather.

"When it's hot and humid, we see a lot more issues. What we had was very conducive to camping: mid to upper 70s, light breezes, one light rain shower, no wind storms," he said. "When it's hot and humid, they're miserable, or just uncomfortable. People get irritated a lot easier and react accordingly."

Weissman said it might have been just the fact that more attendees are becoming seasoned to the atmosphere of the fest.

"People are growing up," he said. "You can't remove all the bad elements, but we've worked so many angles and this is our seventh time around, so we've really tried to perfect everything."