MOORHEAD — The Bluestem Amphitheater is singing a happy song — the south Moorhead performing arts venue set a new attendance record for its 2019 summer concert series.
According to events promoter Jade Presents, 34,808 people took in one of the 14 concerts at the amphitheater. That’s a 26.6 percent increase over last year’s total of 27,490 people at 11 events.
Previously, the attendance record was 2016 when 16 shows drew 28,631.
The total number of attendees could have increased to over 36,000 if shows by contemporary Christian singer Crowder and ventriloquist Terry Fator weren’t canceled. Promoter Jade Nielsen said he was working on a new date for Crowder in 2020, but not Fator.
These attendance numbers do not include Trollwood Performing Arts School productions or the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s annual Symphony Rocks concert.
“Things went really well. I love the idea of pushing Sister Cities to an annual couple of days of food, beverage and music festival,” promoter Jade Nielsen said of the 2019 season and the inaugural two-day Sister Cities Smokeout, adding he is hoping to bring back the grilling celebration in 2020.
While the Sister Cities concerts were moved from the meadow into the amphitheater, the first night of the event, featuring Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Trampled by Turtles, was the biggest show of the season with 3,811 attending.
Bluestem normally caps out at 3,000, but bleachers were brought in to make more space for this show.
A May concert by the Avett Brothers, rescheduled from October 2018 after the band canceled because of the cold weather at the time, was another sold-out show this year. Chicago, Robert Plant and Incubus concerts were close to capacity in 2019 as well, Nielsen says.
Cold weather didn’t stop fans of hard rock acts Dropkick Murphys and Clutch, who drew 1,600 when they played Bluestem on Oct. 3, the last Bluestem Amphitheater event of 2019. The high temperature that day was 45 degrees.
“Certainly the cold kept some people away, but it did OK considering how cold it was,” Nielsen said, adding that because of cooling weather trends, he was reluctant to book shows at Bluestem in October again.
He's looking to produce about 15 concerts at the venue in 2020 and aims to have two or three shows on sale by the end of this year.
The key, he says, is finding a diverse lineup for the series.
“We need to be careful that we’re not competing against ourselves if we have too many similar events too close to one another," he says. "At the same time, we’re trying to book as well as we can in a very short summer time period."
Even before any acts are announced for next year, Jade Presents put season pass packages up for sale. People who purchase passes are guaranteed 12 events, including Sister Cities Smokeout.
Prices range from $179 for a grass pass, or spots on the lawn to the sides of the stage, to a bench pass for $349. Front-row passes with a reserved seat, selling for $999, were already sold by the weekend, Nielsen said. For more information, visit jadepresents.com.