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Editorial: Bluestem Amphitheater offers an experience that is uncommonly good

Music fans take in the performance of Daughtry at the Bluestem Amphitheater Sunday, August 31, 2014 in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

One of the great joys of summer around here is the chance to take in a theatrical production or concert at the Bluestem Amphitheater. The outdoor performance venue, situated amid the prairie south of Moorhead near the wooded bank of the Red River, provides an extraordinary experience that combines top-notch entertainment combined with the pleasures of nature. It's not unusual for audience members to catch a glimpse of deer browsing or to be serenaded by honking geese as they fly overhead during a performance.

We're not alone in appreciating what Bluestem has to offer. Dave Simonett, singer-guitarist for the Minnesota-based group Trampled by Turtles, rhapsodized about the performance site as he was preparing for a return engagement on Friday, Aug. 24. "It's a beautiful setting," he said. "They have built a really great venue there. It's awesome to have that in that community. Not everyone gets one of those." Well said. And it's a song worth singing. In the waning days of summer, it's appropriate to take stock of the contribution to our quality of life that Bluestem Amphitheater bestows. It provides the stage for Trollwood Performing Arts School, which puts on classic theatrical productions that have included "The Music Man," "The Wiz," "Anything Goes," "Mary Poppins" and "The Little Mermaid."

As for concerts, Bluestem has hosted, in addition to Trampled by Turtles, such diverse acts as Goo Goo Dolls and Tony Bennett at its 3,000-seat outdoor auditorium. This season it has booked performers including Cheap Trick, OAR with Matt Nathanson, Blink 182, Jason Mraz, Darci Lynn and the Avett Brothers. That's quite a lineup. Music fans say the sound quality of the outdoor performance stage, with its bowl seating to capture the sound, is outstanding.

Bluestem's early days were difficult and a bit discordant. As Simonett noted, outdoor amphitheaters of Bluestem's caliber are rare. It was not an easy feat, financially, to launch Bluestem. The Bluestem Center for the Arts, which includes the outdoor theater, was a $15 million project when it opened in 2009. The center was a collaborative effort involving the city of Moorhead, which owns the land; the Fargo School District, which owns the buildings; and the state of Minnesota.

Collaboration at Bluestem today takes a different form. It involves a partnership with concert promoters, like Jade Presents. Revenue from venue rentals brought in by concerts and other events has helped put the operation into the red, financially, by offsetting operating costs. In fact, those revenues have grown, along with attendance, in recent years.

The concert season at Bluestem Amphitheater heats up as summer winds down. So, in the time remaining, go see a show and enjoy one of the best outdoor theater and concert venues to be found anywhere.

Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.