Minnesota Summer Fests Blend Music & Camping

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

WE Fest crowd Detroit Lakes
WE Fest, Detroit Lakes

Like a mass human migration every August for more than 30 years, a steady stream of cars, trucks and campers has converged in Detroit Lakes for Minnesota’s WE Fest. With more than 150,000 attendees, it’s billed as America’s biggest country music and camping festival, and for many, it’s also the ultimate summertime party. Campers have a choice of campgrounds at Soo Pass Ranch, from subdued sites with quiet hours to ones where night owls can find their flock.

Here’s a look at some of Minnesota’s other legendary summer music and camping gatherings, from big party weekends to more laid-back family-friendly events.

Winstock Country Music Festival, Winsted

Only about an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, this 25-year-old country festival also brings some of the biggest stars to Minnesota. Past performers have included Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, the Brothers Osborne, Billy Currington and Luke Combs. Six campgrounds include more than 8,600 sites.

Lakes Jam, Brainerd

Campground at Lakes Jam, Brainerd International Raceway
Campground at Lakes Jam, Brainerd International Raceway

Brainerd International Raceway opens its grounds for three days of camping and concerts during Lakes Jam. The racetrack provides a twist on typical festival entertainment, featuring lawnmower races, drifting demonstrations and a car show.

Moondance Jammin Country, Walker

Some of the fun with this festival includes contests for creative, themed campsites, while past entertainers have included Cole Swindell, Gary Allan, Luke Combs, Cam, Brett Young and Michael Ray.

Moondance Jam, Walker

Expect a big-name headliner at this big festival that has gathered rock and classic rock fans near Leech Lake and Chippewa National Forest for the past 27 years.

Family-Friendly Fests

Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival, Richmond

Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in RichmondExpert fiddling, plus other string and acoustic instruments, reigns supreme at the lively, family-friendly Homegrown Kickoff at El Rancho Mañana Campground west of St. Cloud. Campers can also enjoy horseback riding and a swimming beach. The Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association has an even bigger weekend of music here in August.

Smokin’ in Steele, Owatonna

Barbecue goes with the blues the way cold beer goes with country, so this festival at the Steele County Fairgrounds brings together lonesome harmonicas and driving guitars with the sweet, smoky aroma of a barbecue contest. Backyard competitors and even kids can try for prizes based on their skills cooking steak and smoking other cuts. Anyone who eats too much can join the fun run, bike cruise or walk it off while admiring antique tractors and hot rods. The festival offers 110 campsites plus lodging deals.

RiverSong Music Festival, Hutchinson

RiverSong Music Festival in Hutchinson
Photo by Roman Bloemke

More than 15 musical groups—everything from blues and rock to indie and Americana—perform at this scenic setting along the Crow River. There will be harmonica lessons and a tent for jam sessions, as well. Campers can find some sites at Masonic/West River Park or other regional parks nearby.

Lakes Bluegrass Festival, Pine River

For fans of old-time music, this four-day festival brings in four nationally known bluegrass bands, as well as six to eight from Minnesota who take the Cass County Fairgrounds stage but also offer workshops on various instruments Friday and Saturday. That often sparks daytime and after-dark jam sessions. Campers can choose from 150 RV sites or more rustic sites for tents.

Find more summer music festivals in our comprehensive events calendar.