For music festivals that already were banking on it, the state's rollback on COVID-19 capacity limits and mask mandates means their events can go on as planned.
For music venues and promoters of smaller concerts, it's time to start planning.
As of this weekend, the new rules announced Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz lifted the 10,000-person limit on audiences for such outdoor events as Twins games and festivals. On May 28, indoor venues such as clubs, theaters, bars and restaurants also will be free to operate at full capacity, and with no mandatory early closing time.
Mask mandates, too, will be eliminated by July 1 — or sooner, if 70% of Minnesota's population is vaccinated.
This is the news organizers of We Fest in Detroit Lakes were banking on. Typically Minnesota's biggest music festival, it had already planned to take 2020 off even before the pandemic, following a change in ownership.
But in January it announced that Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line would headline its Aug. 5-7 return, in the expectation that audience limits for outdoor events would be scaled back by then.
A limit of 10,000 would have been "a nonstarter," likely leading to a cancellation, they said.
"We're feeling hopeful about moving forward and getting our staff and crew of 1,000-plus back to work," said Matt Mithun, owner of We Fest's host facility Soo Pass Ranch, and co-organizer of the annual country music event with concert promoter Live Nation.
"We're also excited to see that economic impact back at work. It's a multiple of what is spent on the festival alone, and ripples through the local and regional economies."
The other big event awaiting word from the governor was TC Summer Jam — which was even more pressed for time, with the Zac Brown Band, Carrie Underwood and Lynyrd Skynyrd due to headline Canterbury Park in Shakopee July 22-24.
"This is the moment we've all been waiting for in Minnesota," co-founder Jerry Braam said Thursday. Most of Minnesota's annual events "are financially crippled after having to cancel in 2020," he noted, "so having a 2021 event is crucial to survival."
"We are thrilled to bring people back together to enjoy live entertainment for the first time in more than 16 months. We are so thankful to those who have been on the front lines working to get us through the pandemic. We are confident we can hold our outdoor event safely, and we appreciate the support of the governor's office."
The news from Walz came a bit too late for some other summer festivals.
Organizers of the Winstock country music festival pushed off their June lineup until Aug. 20-21 and lost a headliner as a result (Darius Rucker has been replaced by Sam Hunt).
The Basilica Block Party is looking at moving to September. June's Rock the Garden was canceled entirely for 2021.
Big summer stadium tours such as Green Day/Weezer and Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe/Poison are still questionable even with looser restrictions in Minnesota, since they have to contend with rules in other states on their itineraries. Most arena shows have been postponed, including Justin Bieber, whose June date at Target Center was moved to May 6, 2022.
Thursday's announcement was also bittersweet for such venues as First Avenue. The club and its sister stages including the Palace and Fine Line can host indoor shows starting May 28; however, they were not planning to reopen until fall and need time to plan.
"I wish we had been given a little more time and guidance leading up to this," said First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz, noting that concerts typically have to be booked months in advance.
"We have to build our staffing and bar inventory back up, and everything like that."
Still, Kranz anticipates First Ave's concert calendar will slowly ramp up over the summer — largely relying on local and regional acts in lieu of touring shows, which are sidelined until late summer and fall for the most part.
Kranz said his team is extra-happy about the busy fall schedule they've been assembling: "We've been booking those shows in September and beyond, just based on the gut feeling [the restrictions] would loosen. Now we know for sure that's the case."
Thursday's announcement also amounted to a green light for the promoters at Sue McLean & Associates (SMA), who are getting ready to announce outdoor concerts at Canterbury Park and Plymouth's Hilde Amphitheater in lieu of their usual Music in the Zoo series. They can book shows at indoor theaters, too.
"SMA is thrilled to hear Governor Walz's message," the company said in a statement. "[It] allows us to deliver the live concert event experience to more music lovers and loyal fans."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658