Thousands of music lovers packed in and jammed out at Lakefront Park for the Prior Lake Rotary’s Lakefront Music Fest on July 9 and 10.

The popular event was the first major music festival in the Twin Cities metro post pandemic, and for many artists, it was their first live performance in over a year.

Tickets are already on sale for next year’s lineup, which will include country night superstar headliner, Toby Keith, organizers announced on Monday.

“We are thrilled to announce our 2022 country headliner will be Toby Keith,” said event Co-Chair Frank Boyles. “We are committed to bringing top level talent to the event to ensure a great experience for everyone who attends and for our community.”

Additional artists are expected to be announced in the coming months.

The hill at Lakefront Music Fest

Organizers expected a crowd of 17,000 for Lakefront Music Fest on July 9.

Record breaking salesAccording to event organizers, the 2021 Lakefront Music Festival was the event’s most successful year ever with record crowds each night selling over 16,000 tickets.

Event Tri-Chair Michelle Jirik said it’s still too early to know how much was raised but it was another successful year in the books.

“Over the last four years, we have donated to several projects, a total of $750,000,” said Jirik.

Jirik also added that the money will be used for a future project for the city.

“We are excited to start the process of partnering with the city and schools to develop a substantially visible and beneficial project for the city,” she said.

Overall, Jirik said the general vibe for both nights of the festival was nothing but pure excitement to be out listening to live music after a year of canceled and postponed events around the nation.

Woman in the crowd

A festivalgoer is boosted atop someone’s shoulders during Cheap Trick’s electrifying set at Lakefront Music Fest.

Because the event is run strictly by volunteers, Jirik said the Rotary Club of Prior Lake is working hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly next year after there were complaints this year that lines were too long.

“We understand there were areas that needed to be adjusted after Friday night and we were able to make happen,” said Jirik. “We will continue to make adjustments for next year to improve the overall experience for everyone.”

As far as safety goes, Cmdr. Brad Cragoe with Prior Lake Police Department said there were no major incidents on either nights of the festival.

“The majority of the calls we had were medical related and most of those involved a large amount of alcohol, but things went as smoothly as we could’ve hoped,” said Cragoe.

The Prior Lake police were assisted by Savage and Shakopee Police Departments along with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the Prior Lake Fire Department and the Mdewakanton Public Safety Department. Allina’s ambulance service also provided paramedics for the event.

Lady A set to return in 2023

This year, fans rocked out to Styx, Cheap Trick, 38 Special, Jake Owen and Noah Guthrie. This year’s roster was scheduled to perform at last year’s Lakefront Music Festival but was forced to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One act that was notably missing from the lineup was the country group Lady A, who was scheduled to headline Saturday’s country night.

According to event organizers, the award-winning country group pulled out of the music festival on short notice due to a medical emergency. The band tweeted early Saturday morning that band member Charles Kelley was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis.

“Unfortunately, Charles has appendicitis, so we’re sorry to say we won’t be with you in Minnesota at Lakefront Music Fest tonight,” the band tweeted. “This morning Charles is in good hands and we’re continuing to pray for his recovery. The minute he is cleared by his doctors we will be back on the road to see y’all.”

Kelley took to his social media on Sunday and updated his fans from his hospital bed to express his disappointment for not performing on Saturday.

“Hey guys — sitting here in the hospital and so bummed to have missed performing our first show back in Minnesota, not to mention in 16 months — that’s an understatement,” stated Kelley on Instagram. “But the ol’ appendix had other plans. Didn’t even know what an appendix was until Friday when it sent me to the ER. Love y’all and be back soon enough.”

Michelle Jirik, the event tri-chair, said even though fans were disappointed in Lady A’s absence, they still had a great time with extended sets from country artists Jake Owen and Noah Guthrie. Additionally, the country trio is booked to return to Lakefront Music Fest in 2023.

Dancing 3

Festival-goers square danced at Lakefront Music Fest's country night on July 10.

“Customers were very supportive in the disappointing news and excited to have Jake Owen step up with an extended set and help make the night a fun time,” said Jirik. “Refunds were offered if they decided they did not want to come to the event on Saturday. We will also work to ensure those who purchased tickets for Saturday night will have first access to purchase tickets to see Lady A in 2023.”

For any questions regarding refunds visit www.lakefrontmusicfest.com/contact.html or email info@lakefrontmusicfest.com

And the bands

played onFriday and Saturday’s performances still went ahead as planned and did not disappoint.

Robin Zander

Robin Zander of Cheap Trick performs at Lakefront Music Fest on July 9.

Southern rock legends 38 Special warmed up the sold-out crowd on Friday, then Cheap Trick took the stage, performing their signature live classics “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.”

Finally, the headliner Styx took the stage at around 10 p.m., with the crowd at full capacity, stretching all the way up the hill at Lakefront Park.

Tommy Shaw

Styx’s Tommy Shaw holds up his guitar after after a raucous solo.

Clad in their best cowboy hats, boots and sleeveless flannels, a crowd of thousands cheered country superstar Jake Owen and opener Noah Guthrie’s acts as they closed the Lakefront Music Fest on Saturday night.

For many attendees, the festival marked a return to beloved traditions. Friends Bill Reese, of Prior Lake, and Marvin Bachmeier, of Savage, returned to country music night for their fourth time and were delighted to be back in the company of their friends and neighbors, the pair said.

Friends at Lakefront 7

Bill Reese, left, and Marvin Bachmeier returned for their fourth year at the Lakefront Music Festival.

“It’s the absolute best,” Reese said. “We’ve all been cooped up for so long.”

Owen celebrated his return to the stage as well, noting that he’d gone 427 days without performing. The crowd sang along as he led them in a few bars of “Three Little Birds (Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright)” by Bob Marley in between his own rousing songs, like “Down to the Honkytonk” and “Cherry On Top.”

Reporter Eden Teller and Editor Michael Strasburg contributed to this story.

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