Businessman Wants To 'Rock' The Island of Minocqua

Dec 4, 2019

The island
Credit Town of Minocqua.org

MINOCQUA – A downtown business owner wants to bring in nationally known rock bands for evening concerts in Torpy Park on the Island of Minocqua next summer.

Kirk Bangstad, owner of Minocqua Brewing Company, pitched the idea to the town board Tuesday. He said the bands would bring more shoppers to the Island and fill motels with fans staying overnight, as well as making Minocqua a concert destination.

The bands he’s considering are those playing older 80s, 90s rock and pop music. “We don’t have any real plans yet, just a concept of what we want to do,” he said. Bangstad proposed holding the concerts on 3 to 5 Thursday nights and one Saturday night.

But the board said it would consider only two events for next year. They withheld final approval until they learn more details. Supervisor Bill Stengl said the board should find out the capacity of the park’s upper level, the hours of the music, and a formal declaration of support from the Minocqua Island Business Association before any further consideration.

Bangstad said that in order to bring in 500 to 700 fans, the bands would have to be on the level of the BoDeans, Rusted Root (worldbeat rock), The Wailers (reggae), Cracker, and The Verve Pipe. All have record deals and touring schedules. While the above bands are possibilities, availability depends on their touring schedules.

Bangstad said he needs “conceptual approval” from the board before spending time and money on the proposal. Those bands typically cost $12,000 to $25,000 for a concert, it was noted.

Not fully on board

The supervisors and town chairman Mark Hartzheim had reservations about the proposal, which would require fencing the upper level of the popular park during the concerts. Fencing is needed because admission would range between $20 and $30 (with some funding from businesses to offset the cost). All ticket revenue would go for the bands’ booking fees, ticket marketing and event insurance, Bangstad said.

A photograph of the temporary fencing shows a wire mesh fence several feet high. It would be set up 12 to 18 hours before the concert. But supervisor John Thompson wasn’t happy with the hours. “This is quite a bit,” he said. Thompson also questioned the concert hours (Bangstad answered 6-9 p.m.) and whether the sound would disturb residents living across the lake. Hartzheim said the proposal “is very exciting,” but he was reluctant to having the upper half of the park off-limits to other users. He said the town gets numerous requests to reserve the bandshell and the new shelter from people wanting to hold weddings and birthday parties. The board so far has refused those requests. “I’m resistant it at this time,” was also supervisor Billy Fried’s initial response to scheduling the rock bands during the busy summer season. Later, he said he would be “open” to one or two events outside the peak tourist season to see how it works out.

Sue Heil expressed similar support. If they move forward with the request, the board said the two events would have to be held in either early June or September.

How it would work out

The Minocqua Brewing Company would organize and manage the concerts, using staff and contract workers, said Bangstad. The business would sell food, alcohol and other beverages to the crowd. Bangstad said the series, tentatively known as “Party in the Park: Island Nights,” would be held in collaboration with the Minocqua Island Business Association, of which he is the vice president. The membership has not been formally approached, but Bangstad said he believes they will welcome the concerts. He needs their approval in order to obtain a non-profit picnic license to sell alcohol.

Because of limited downtown parking, fans would be encouraged to ride buses from the high school and other locales, similar to what’s done for Beef-A-Rama. A $10 parking fee would go to non-profit groups assisting with the shuttles and parking.

Public works director Mark Pertile said he saw no major problems for his department. Police Chief David Jaeger said he would likely need two officers on duty on those nights. Bangstad said Island Nights concerts would build on the Sunday afternoon concerts, which would continue. His company also organizes and manages those free events, which attract 200-400 attendees. Room tax grants and donations by businesses support those 10 Sunday concerts.

Bangstad will have to resolve the scheduling conflict with the community band, which reserves the bandshell for their Thursday night concerts