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Loon Jam set for this weekend near Vergas

Yes, Labor Day weekend is approaching, and that can mean only one thing -- the long, hot days of summer are drawing to a close.

But before you store away that camping gear until next year, why not pack it up in your vehicle one more time and head on over to Heisler's Country Campground for one more weekend of fun in the sun?

The campground one mile south of Vergas has been unofficially dubbed the "Loon Ranch," in acknowledgement of its role as the host of the end-of-summer music and camping festival known as the Loon Jam.

For three days, from Friday through Sunday, Sept. 2-4, campground denizens will be treated to a rockin' good time by some of the area's best local musicians.

This year's lineup of bands includes not only longtime favorites like The Roosters and Rhyme or Reason -- who will headline the Saturday and Sunday night shows, respectively -- but also up-and-comers including Firewater Burn, Hometown Hero and the J.B. Hamilton Band.

And best of all, it's for a good cause. Now in its third year, the Loon Jam will be "raising money for local charities in town," said organizer Marvin Heisler.

The first Loon Jam, organized by Kevin Flynn, was intended as a fundraiser for improvements at the Vergas baseball diamond -- where the festival was held -- as well as for the support of the local fire and rescue squad.

But because one of the purposes of that fundraiser was to provide power, lights and increased parking for the baseball fields, that meant none of those things were readily available for the festival.

So in its second year, the Loon Jam was moved out to Heisler's campground, where there was more than enough room to spread out and set up a stage.

"There's plenty of room for both tents and RVs," Heisler said. "It's mostly dry lot camping, but we do have a limited amount of water and electrical hookups."

The first Loon Jam drew around 400 people; the second, over 500 -- though Heisler estimates that amount could have been a great deal higher if the weather hadn't been so unseasonably cold.

"It was bad weather last year," he said. "It was not good to hold an outdoor event on a weekend that was so cold."

This year, Heisler added, "we're hoping for 700 to 1,000 people, but who knows -- we really don't know if we're going to get 700 people, or 300."

Still, he added, "it's been growing every year."

While they're at the Loon Jam, guests will also be able to enjoy an array of summer festival cuisine at its finest -- "burgers, fries and onion rings, chicken strips, hot dogs and brats," Heisler said.

There will also be a few merchandise vendors on hand as well. But of course, as the name implies, the tunes are the main attraction.

Friday's festivities begin at 7 p.m., with music by Firewater Burn.

"That night is free," Heisler said. "You can come in and get set up, camp for free and enjoy some music."

Camping for Saturday and Sunday, meanwhile, is $15 per night -- "or you can stay through the weekend for $30," Heisler said.

Firewater Burn will be performing for a second time on Saturday, along with The Roosters; the Sunday lineup includes the JB Hamilton Band, Hometown Hero, and Rhyme or Reason, who will close out the musical portion of the weekend's festivities with their set.

Both the Saturday and Sunday shows start at 2 p.m., Heisler noted.

For more information, or to make a reservation, contact Heisler's Country Campground at 218-342-2233.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454