Lakes Bluegrass Festival returns to Pine River area park

The 16th annual Lakes Bluegrass Festival returns to the Lakes Music & Events Park near Pine River. Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out is one of the headliners of the multiday event that officially starts Thursday, Aug. 25.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out musical group photo
Russell Moore, left, and IIIrd Tyme Out
Contributed / IIIrd Tyme Out
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PINE RIVER — Lakes Bluegrass Festival’s return to the Lakes Music & Events Park near Pine River is music to the ears.

The 16th annual festival unofficially begins Wednesday, Aug. 24, with a free country dance. The bluegrass festival officially starts Thursday and will include as one of the headliners Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out in the band’s first local appearance.

“They've been one of the top-performing bands for many years,” said Tim Roggenkamp, festival entertainment director. “And if you go look at their bio and stuff, he's won the Male Vocalist of the Year more times than anybody else for the International Bluegrass Music Awards.”

Other headliners slated to perform at the multiday event that runs through Sunday include Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, The Malpass Brothers, The Purple Hulls and The Kevin Prater Band. Tickets are available for purchase at the gate and online, and vary in cost.

The Purple Hulls
The Purple Hulls
Contributed / Tim Roggenkamp

“Throughout its 16-year history, we have focused on bringing America’s top bluegrass bands to the Lakes Bluegrass Festival,” Tim Roggenkamp said. “We bring extraordinary talent recognized both nationally and internationally as some of the best in the bluegrass music business.”


Besides performances from award-winning musicians, attendees can enjoy camping, on-site food, adult beverages, dances, workshops, jam sessions, free day parking and more.

“In 2020, we had to cancel the main event,” Tim Roggenkamp said of the pandemic. “We had a small camp out we had to keep it under 250 people, so we just made a small camp out and some of the local musicians just volunteered their time and played some on stage.”

Alan Bibey & Grasstowne
Alan Bibey & Grasstowne
Contributed / Tim Roggenkamp

Musical groups that will perform at this year’s Pine River area festival come from regions steeped in bluegrass music like Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, the Carolinas and more.

“My wife and I started the festival as a way — we've always been bluegrass musicians and fans — to introduce bluegrass to the greater Brainerd lakes area,” Tim Roggenkamp said.

There will be a free country dance Wednesday featuring the Mark Petersen Band from the Brainerd lakes area from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The country dance is considered a prelude to the actual bluegrass festival and one of the ways the organizers are giving back to the community.

“I actually went to high school with him. He was here last year and he's coming back this year,” Tim Roggenkamp said of Mark Petersen. “And it's free to the public so you can just come out, you don’t have to buy a ticket on Wednesday night.”

The ground was broken for the Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park project in Brainerd in June. The planned greenspace with trails and pathways, a community amphitheater and an outdoor classroom with steps down along East River Road was previously a Tourist Park attracting thousands.

Founded in 2009, the Pine River Area Foundation, a nonprofit, owns and operates the Lakes Bluegrass Festival and the Lakes Music & Events Park located about half of a mile north of Pine River.

“It is gratifying to see how the facility is attracting regional events and that people are traveling from all over to attend the events,” Dave Roggenkamp, president of the foundation and Tim Roggenkamp’s brother. “We typically have people come from 10-12 states and Canada to attend the Lakes Bluegrass Festival.”


The Lakes Music & Events Park sits on about 30 acres of land nestled among the pines on a former golf course. Located along Highway 371 and adjacent to the Paul Bunyan Trail, the park offers convenient access, according to the Roggenkamps.

“We just continue to have quality bands that come from all around the country,” Tim Roggenkamp said of the festival’s longevity. “And our regular fans have come to know that we always provide quality bluegrass bands and try to keep the prices reasonable.”

The Malpass Brothers
The Malpass Brothers
Contributed / The Malpass Brothers

The park features an entertainment stage with about 75,000 square feet of outdoor seating space, a 4,000-square-foot covered pavilion, two smaller pavilions, 146 electric recreational vehicle sites, several hundred regular campsites, a RV dump station and water access.

“We are so excited to see our dream of creating a regional venue to host community-focused events start to gain traction,” said Steven Hansen, a former Pine River Area Foundation president. “The community support has been outstanding. And as an organization, we are working hard to make giving back a reality.”

If you go

What: 16th annual Lakes Bluegrass Festival.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 24, to Sunday, Aug. 28.
Where: Lakes Music & Events Park, about half of a mile north of Pine River.
Tickets: Cost varies. Available at gate or online at .
More info: Online at .

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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