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​Prairie Pothole Back After COVID Speed Bump

Music | June 15th, 2021

by John Showalter john.d.showalter@gmail.com

The COVID-19 pandemic took a huge toll on the live music industry. Not only concerts but full-blown music festivals were among the casualties over the course of 2020. However, as vaccines continue to roll out and guidelines are loosened, venues have been cautiously reopening their doors to live performances and promoters have been plying their craft.

Among those promoters is Lucas Conlon, the head of production, talent buyer, and general manager for the Prairie Pothole Festival near Anamoose, North Dakota. Recently I had the opportunity to interview both him and the founder of the festival, John “Pezo” Wardner, about their return to the music festival scene after having to put things on hold last year.

The Prairie Pothole Festival began in 2016 and takes place on a property owned by Wardner about six miles north of Anamoose. “I’ve always been a big music fan,” said Wardner. “I fell in love with festivals,” citing the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, where he went to tech school, as a formative influence on him wanting to found his own.

“There aren’t a lot of music festivals in North Dakota,” said Wardner, and with Prairie Pothole he was looking to fill that niche. When seeking acts for the festival, Wardner and those involved sought to have a well-balanced lineup. “We consider ourselves an all-genre music festival,” said Wardner, stating that the festival has featured everything from folk music to blue grass to hip hop to heavy metal. In fact, there are currently 61 artists on this year’s bill and there will be four stages this year as opposed to three in previous years.

“Selecting artists is a really tedious process,” said Conlon. “We have a huge list in the beginning that we carefully go through and whittle down until we have what we have, a fresh and well-balanced lineup. We have a handful of festival favorites that we rotate in and out from event to event. Selecting the line-up is a total bittersweet process. It’s a lot of fun picking artists for the festival, but it’s a bummer at the same time because there are always lots of great options that we have to pass on because we only have so much room on the schedule.”

Conlon has been involved with the festival since 2017, when he was hired to do audio production for the Upland Stage by his friend Joseph Tibor Jr. He continued, “Additionally, I was asked by New Reign to join him on drums and a little bit of guitar for his set, thus marking the beginning of New Reign & Big Dad. It was a life-changing experience for me. I was going through some tough times in my life and I was welcomed by this amazing group of strangers doing beautiful things in the middle of the prairie. My involvement with PPMF probably saved my life. I am eternally grateful for this little festival community.”

There is a lot more going on at Prairie Pothole Festival than just the huge line-up of musical acts over the course of three days. “There will also be food, clothing, and jewelry vendors, a blacksmithing workshop, yoga classes, and a kayak race,” said Wardner. There will also be medical professionals and security available in case they are needed. There are camping accommodations for attendees, and the show will go on rain or shine, so attendees will want to keep that in mind when they pack to camp out at the festival.

Of course, there are still lingering concerns about COVID-19, and Wardner pointed out that had been taken into consideration, as this year there will be extra handwashing stations and free face masks offered to concertgoers. I feel that the COVID-19 situation is going to deter some from attending events like these, but then on the other hand, there is an increased interest from the people that have been taking these things for granted, or have been missing out,” said Conlon. “So I think we are gonna find a balance in the end. Bottom line is, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to curate events like these and bring the people together to celebrate these things that make us feel alive!”

YOU SHOULD KNOW

Prairie Pothole Music Festival is a grassroots music and arts festival in the heart of the midwest. PPMF is being held July 15-17 2021 at Aurora Knolls Lodge and Event Center, 1695 38th St NE, Anamoose, N.D. We are dedicated to offering an eclectic and fresh line-up consisting of international, national, and regional artists as well as a handful of world class painters and visual artists.

PPMF will be hosting 4 stages, 40+ musical acts, world-class painters, visual artists, diverse vendors, a kayak race and so much more! PPMF 2021 will also come with a new focus on top-notch, life enriching workshops! We will be hosting a wide variety of workshops ranging from Yoga & Meditation to traditional trades such as Blacksmithing & Cooking over an open fire! We are very excited to share this with you!

We offer camping (RV passes available for an additional fee) and have a small lake that is great for swimming and non-motorized boating. Bring your kayak, canoe, or inflatable water toys and cool off in the pothole while watching music on The Lodge Stage!

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