Lakes Jam music festival crowd

Minnesota Summer Fests Blend Music & Camping

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Spend three days listening to music and camping out at Lakes Jam in Brainerd

Minnesota Summer Fests Blend Music & Camping

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

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.

Concert stage at dusk

WE Fest in Detroit Lakes is America's biggest country music and camping festival / Keith Griner

Leave The Kids at Home

Winstock Country Music Festival, Winstead

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

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.

Family setting up their tent campsite

Camping with kids at Lake Maria State Park

Family-Friendly Fests

Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival, Richmond

Expert 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 Steel, 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

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 Lakes Music and Events Park 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.

Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.