Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Memories and milestones fill Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The 20th Annual Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival was held on Labor Day, Mon., Sept. 3, at Minnehaha Park. Featured performers included King Wilkie’s Dream, Pride of the Prairie, the 50th Anniversary reunion of the Middle Spunk Creek Boys, Becky Thompson and Old School, and the Sawtooth Brothers.

East Nokomis resident Alan Jesperson, a guitarist for the Middle Spunk Creek Boys, is the festival’s creator, tour-de-force, and all-around unsung hero. He said, “I had the idea for the festival back in 1998 when the performance space at Minnehaha Park was brand new. Typically, the Minneapolis Park Board doesn’t pay performers, but I knew we could do that with the help of some sponsors. This year’s sponsor list included more than 60 neighborhood businesses. The Minnehaha Avenue DQ was our very first sponsor 20 years ago, and they haven’t missed a year since.”

Photo right: Past band members (left to right) Mark Kreitzer, Steve Block, and Mark Briere saddled up to the mic. Jesperson said, “We had some great players over the years. This is where we all learned how to play in a band together.”

Jesperson rents the pavilion at Minnehaha Park and puts on what many people consider to be one of the musical highlights of summer in the Twin Cities. There’s no admission charge, plenty of seating on the benches in front of the stage, an open space for dancing, and the chance to see Minnehaha Falls in all its late summer glory.

“I spend about two months organizing the festival. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a labor of love for me,” Jesperson said.

Musicians from all over the country contact Jesperson about playing at the festival. “We’ve got the details pretty well worked out after all these years,” Jesperson said, “and it’s a nice 40-minute gig for a band. We transport the musicians and their gear from the parking area in a golf cart, and our sound man, Doug Lohman, is as good as they come. Next year we’ll be bringing Jerry Wizentowski from Milwaukee as our festival headliner. He’s a fantastic bluegrass singer, and not to be missed.”

Photo right: Alan Jesperson married his longtime sweetheart (and Middle Spunk Creek Boys bass player) Janine Kemmer, in a surprise wedding ceremony on-stage after the band finished their set.

The Middle Spunk Creek Boys are the pillar of the Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival. The band currently has four members but has had about 25 revolve through since it started. Eighteen of the “Spunks” came back for the 50th reunion concert at Laughing Waters and played in several different combinations.

Jesperson said, “We got together at my store, and rehearsed for three days straight before the concert. I’ve never played that much guitar in my life, in such a short amount of time. It’s been a great ride though and, I’m happy to say, we’re all still friends.”
For information about next year’s festival, contact alanjesp@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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