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Free live bands heat up fair stage to entertain generations

Come out and play is the motto for the Dakota County Fair, and for many fairgoers sitting down listen to a live band perform is part of that annual summer tradition.

"The bands that everyone loves and that have been a success for years are back to the fair to give that familiarity so people have a good time and leave with a good feeling that resonates with everyone," said Jenna Haler, a Dakota County Fair board director.

The concert lineup on the fair's free beer garden stage, from cover bands to performers who play original music, heats things up Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Each year when the fair wraps up its tents the 12 directors sit down to evaluate what bands to book for next year's county fair. They gather feedback and look to renew band contracts for popular acts that brought in the crowds.

The fair board also looks to book new bands are popular and that play music that spans the generations. So if a cover band can play tunes from the 50s to today's top country and popular songs, it is likely the band will be a hit with fairgoers, Haler said.

"We also like to find new bands and new acts for the stage each year," said Haler. "The music from the bands each night has to keep people in and attract more crowds."

Because of the high demand, this year the Dakota County Fair plans to set up a second stage to host another free evening entertainment option like a live band. The exact location of the tent and stage had not been decided the week before the fair.

"We want to have another tent so we can show off local artists and acoustic acts," Haler said.

Because the evening concerts are free, Haler said, "It is a fantastic deal for families because once you get into the fair and pay at the gate, you can enjoy the bands and there are so many other entertainment options that are free at the fair."

By popular demand, the Johnny Holm Band will return again this year to play popular songs from today and yesterday.

"It is fun to have them back because they play songs that everyone can recognize," Haler said. "The Johnny Holm Band fans span a couple of generations, from my parents to even the younger generations like myself."

Now that the Johnny Holm Band has started writing their own music to perform on stage in addition to performing favorite songs, Haler said "It is cool to see them develop as a band."

Last year the band Lost Highway premiered on the fair's free entertainment stage and was a big hit with fair audiences.

"They are back again this year because everyone had a great time last year.... They play country and the audiences in the beer gardens were rocking," Haler said.

Haler said each year the goal is to bring fairgoers diverse, entertaining acts that can be enjoyed by many generations.

"The bigger the crowds and those crowds that stay all night long are the best and are the ones that dictate which bands we will consider next year," Haler said.

If a Dakota County resident has a suggestion for a band, the fair board is always open to hearing about new talent or an up and coming band.

"People want to come and play at the fair, and sometimes the hardest part for us as a board is choosing which bands to book for next year," Haler said. "The word of mouth from people who have seen a good band is always good, and we love a good recommendation because we want everyone to come to the fair, take time to enjoy it, and have a good time listening to the music."

Fair live band lineup

8 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, Aug. 8 - The Whitesidewalls

8:45 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Aug. 9 - Johnny Holm Band

8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, Aug. 10 - Hitchville

8:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Aug. 11 - Lost Highway