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High Plains Fest in DL offers music and camping

The picturesque setting of the Soo Pass Ranch's Northwoods Campground is a lure in and of itself.

But throw in three full nights of music by some of the region's premier performers, along with family camping on the shores of Lake Sallie and some tasty food favorites, and you have the makings of a new favorite holiday destination.

The inaugural High Plains Festival opens this Friday, July 1 at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch, and continues through the morning of Tuesday, July 5.

With some of the region's best camping opportunities threatened by the possibility of a state government shutdown, the Soo Pass offers an intriguing alternative, said David Larson, promotions director for the festival.

"You can only camp in this really scenic, well preserved campground a couple of times a year," said Larson, referring to the fact that the Soo Pass camping facilities are only open to the public during this festival and the upcoming WE Fest, Aug. 3-6.

Not only that, but a second campground on Lake Sallie will also be opened -- to family campers only -- during the High Plains Fest.

"The walk to Dunton Locks (from the Lake Sallie Campground) is amazing, and the lakeshore there is untouched, so it's really beautiful," Larson added.

Not only that, but the two campgrounds are conveniently located close to town, so local residents can actually ride their bicycles back and forth from their homes while still enjoying the feel of a weekend camping holiday, Larson said.

The Soo Pass campgrounds also come equipped with electrical hookups, bathrooms and shower house, not to mention abundant shade and spectacular nature views, he added.

And that's not even mentioning what is, for many, the festival's main attraction -- three full nights of music, featuring some of the region's top acts.

"The whole idea was an attempt to cater to local music," Larson said. "Every one of these bands is Minnesota or North Dakota-based."

Friday night, July 1, will feature music from some of the top-ranked regional music acts from the festival-sponsored Battle of the Bands, held in Fargo this past April.

"Most of the Battle of the Bands acts were Detroit Lakes or Fargo-Moorhead based," Larson said.

The High Plains Reader Stage, located in the Soo Pass's saloon, will be the location for Friday's action, with doors opening at 5 p.m. and the music getting underway at 6:30 p.m.

(Because the High Plains Reader is one of the festival's main sponsors, both the saloon and its stage have been rechristened in their honor for the duration of the festival.)

Friday's performers will include The Further Adjustments, O'Fosho, the Michael Pink Band and Four on the Floor, with the music continuing at the saloon until 2 a.m.

Minnesota's own bluegrass wizards, Trampled by Turtles, will be the featured headliner on Saturday night, July 2.

"They love us," Larson said of the reason why the band -- which plays regularly to packed houses across the country -- agreed to headline the inaugural event at the Soo Pass.

"They've played at this location before," he added, noting that Trampled By Turtles was previously a featured act at the now-defunct 10,000 Lakes Festival, where they performed to an audience of between 10,000 and 15,000 people.

"There's been a definite connection between Trampled by Turtles and the Soo Pass," Larson said.

Saturday will be the biggest night of the three, with music on two stages instead of just one, he continued. Both the High Plains Reader Stage and the newly remodeled Barn Stage and picnic area -- rechristened as the Summit Stage -- will be in use throughout the evening.

With that in mind, Larson added, admission to Saturday's performances will require a separate concert ticket, available for just $25 per person -- but with admission limited to just 3,500 people for the night, those who are coming specifically to see Trampled by Turtles should order those tickets now.

"Once we get to 3,500, that's it," he cautioned.

Besides the headline act, Saturday's lineup is jam-packed with talent.

"We wanted to start things off with a local band, so (Detroit Lakes' own) Hardwood Groove will be performing on the High Plains Reader Stage at 6:30," Larson said.

Detroit Lakes area native Caroline Smith will be up next -- backed by some of the musicians from Trampled by Turtles, with whom she has toured in the past.

Nathan Miller & Unstoppable Company, Pert Near Sandstone and Sovereign Sect will complete Saturday's lineup of performers, with music continuing once again until 2 a.m.

Then on Sunday, July 3, the High Plains Reader Saloon & Stage will be open once again, with performances from Amanda Standalone & Friends, Inside Out Strings (Battle of the Bands winner!), Boys 'N the Barrels and the ever-popular Johnson Family Band.

"Sunday is turning out to be an amazing bluegrass night," Larson said.

The music will once again get underway at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and continue through 2 a.m.

Though there is no music on the schedule for Monday, July 4, the saloon will be open at noon (as it will on Saturday and Sunday also).

There will be food available at the saloon throughout the festival, including hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and other bar favorites, and there will be some breakfast items as well, Larson said.

In addition, there will be wood-fired pizza, French bread and other delicacies available for sale at the Northwoods Campground, Larson noted.

Camping passes are $50 per vehicle or campsite for all four nights, Friday through Tuesday, July 1-5, or $40 for Saturday through Tuesday only. There is an additional $50 charge to include an electrical hookup, available on a limited basis. The campgrounds will close at noon on Tuesday, July 5.

For more information, please call the High Plains Festival ticket office at 800-493-3378, or visit the website at