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‘You ‘otter’ be there’: Ottertail’s first-ever OtterJam

The Kentucky Headhunters, Freebird and Jeremiah James Korfe will play the main stage at OtterJam, coming up in Ottertail on June 7. Submitted image

The city of Ottertail is getting a rockin’ new summer event.

The first-ever OtterJam, a day-long music festival featuring local and national country and rock bands, is coming to town on Saturday, June 7.

On the lineup are Minnesota celebrity Jeremiah James Korfe – of “Sweet Home Alabama” fame – a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band called Freebird, and the award-winning group country-rock group, The Kentucky Headhunters.

That’s on the main stage. On a smaller side stage, young local groups like Perham’s Border Patrol will play.

The intent is that, from the time the gates open at 2 p.m. until the last guitar strum at 10:30 p.m., there will be unending, ‘wall-to-wall’ sound at the concert grounds – although that expression doesn’t quite fit, since there won’t be any walls at OtterJam’s large outdoor venue.

The show will take place at the site of the former Smokin’ Iron competition, near the water tower at the center of town. Overnight camping will be available at the site.

The whole thing is the brainchild of Jerry Kern and his business partner, Joe Rice, who own and operate Hay Creek Entertainment. The company works on behalf of artists and venues to plan events in the Perham, Wadena, Ottertail and surrounding area.

Kern, a Verndale native, has a surprisingly eclectic resume.

In an interview with the Focus last week, he revealed that he’s played bass guitar with the Country Bullet Band, War Pony and other groups, which has led him to tour around and connect with hundreds of other musicians.

He’s also appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (for a novelty trick he’s made YouTube videos of – he rips the lid off a beer can with his teeth, then drinks it). That led to a stint as a production assistant for the show, as well as a mention on Tosh.O’s website.

Later, Kern worked as a production assistant for a show on Animal Planet called “Off the Hook.” He’s also worked with St. Croix Casino in Wisconsin, helping to coordinate major entertainment events like Travis Tritt and Brett Michaels concerts.

Meanwhile, his day job is something totally different – he runs Git-R-Dug, a residential and agricultural drainage system business based in Mahnomen, Minn.

He said that, while on the West Coast for his Tonight Show experience, he stuck out like a sore thumb, going to clubs in his jeans and flannel shirts.

With a passion for the entertainment business, and a strong desire to stay close to home, Kern enthusiastically got behind the idea of owning his own entertainment company.

“All these things led me to pursue Hay Creek Entertainment, and put on some of these events myself,” he said.

The company put on its first big show last year, bringing Little Texas to Wadena. When they heard that there would be no Smokin’ Iron in Ottertail this year, they decided that was a major entertainment hole that needed to be filled.

Rice, who owns Lake Country Concessions, has been an Ottertail resident for the past 15 years, according to Kern. He and Kern met when they both played for War Pony; Rice played the steel guitar.

When the pair approached Ottertail city leaders with their idea, it was warmly received. They believe the concert will help bring some business to town, and they’re striving to be community-oriented and attentive to the city’s needs and wants.

“The community has been supportive,” said Kern, mentioning his gratefulness to all the show’s sponsors. “They’ve been very receptive. They want to see something like this happen.”

Hay Creek Entertainment is bringing in a top-of-the-line, 32’x24’ covered stage for the event. This being the first year, Kern said, “I figured, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go big.”

There will also be top-of-the-line sound equipment hanging from the stage.

The side stage will be smaller and less high-tech, but will serve as an opportunity for some younger, local groups to open for national acts and get a first-hand experience of how these kinds of concerts are put together. They’ll play from the time the gates open until the first main stage act starts, at 4 p.m.

Weather will play a factor in attendance, Kern said, but he’s hoping at least 1,000 people will turn out.

“I’m excited for Otter Jam,” he said. “I think it’s something that can not only be successful this year, but can grow and people can look forward to it every year.”

For more information about the concert or overnight camping, visit, www.haycreek-, or the OtterJam Facebook page.

Tickets are available at the Perham Chamber of Commerce and Brew Ales and East, at The Otter Supper Club and First National Bank of Ottertail, and at the Bullseye Bar in Verndale.

“Ottertail Otter Jam – You ‘otter’ be there!” said Kern with a laugh.

The Kentucky Headhunters

The Kentucky Headhunters, a long-standing country-rock band, has released seven studio albums, two compilations and 20 singles, and has won three County Music Association awards, an Academy of Country Music award and a Grammy Award.

Founding in 1968, the band is best remembered for its 1989 debut album, “Pickin’ on Nashville,” which charted four consecutive top 40 country singles, including “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine,” “Dumas Walker,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Angel” and the top 10 hit, “Oh Lonesome Me.”

In the early 1990s, The Kentucky Headhunters were considered a dark horse in country music, due to the popularity of the group despite its rougher sound and rural Southern image.

Today, the band continues to tour the country, entertaining crowds with their energetic performances and bluesy, rambunctious sound.

Jeremiah James Korfe

Dividing his time between writing, recording, touring, and farming, Korfe has toured with his previous band, “From Joyce,” nationally with the X Games, been featured on Country Music Television’s “Sweet Home Alabama” reality show, and in print commercials for Harley Davidson, Budweiser, and Crown Royal.

One of 10 kids raised on a family farm in Clarissa, Minn., he’ll be returning to his home state to perform his blend of country and rock for OtterJam.


A tribute band to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Freebird replicates some of the best songs that Skynyrd ever played.

The music of the ‘70s is relived in the spirit of Freebird, and the group’s authentic southern style makes audiences feel like they’re at a live Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.

Featuring hits like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “That Smell,” “Call Me the Breeze,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and, of course, “Freebird,” this promises to be a concert no classic rock fan should miss.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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