Cram the Van | OTC-On Ice

Land of 10,000 lakes adds music festival to list of winter activities

Even in the dead of winter you will find Minnesotans enjoying their lakes, whether it be ice fishing, snowmobiling — or attending a music festival.

That’s right. A music festival hosted on a frozen Minnesota lake. An event started by the Otter Tail Lakes Country Association to promote the area, OTC-On Ice entertained spectators for the second year on Feb. 8 and 9.

The two-day fest kicked off Friday night, with Aaron Simmons and The Roadkill as the first act taking to the frozen stage. Simmons played the first OTC-On Ice last year and loves the experience. “It is so unique. It is a fun experience,” Simmons said.

The band showed true Minnesota spirit, playing through negative 20 degree temperatures in the “Otterdome,” as the heaters were not yet working.

Simmons agreed that the cold was a concern for the band, when they could hardly play their songs in the cold. “I honestly wasn’t very optimistic when we sound checked early today,” Simmons said. “The heaters on this end weren’t working, and after two partial songs, I couldn’t feel my hands.” On top of that, the bass, fiddle and electric guitar were in need of constant tuning to ensure the proper sound.

All of that aside, Simmons still counted the experience as a positive one. “When you see the audience, they may not be up by the rail, but they are grooving and smiling; you don’t worry about the other stuff as much.”

Simmons resorted to wearing one glove while playing guitar, and the band’s latest addition, electric guitarist Joe, resorted to stuffing his hands in his jacket when not playing.

Despite the cold, Simmons and attendees remained in high spirits. Simmons even joked, “You know what I love about this weather? It keeps your beer cold.”

Luckily, hot drinks were available from the food vendors. This included a spiked hot cider featuring Fargo’s own Proof Artisan Distillery’s 2DOCKS Fireproof cinnamon whiskey.

Simmons and The Roadkill offered a pleasing mix of covers and originals, including a solo of Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill.” Simmons plays gigs solo most of the time and utilizes a looping station just like Sheeran.

Working heaters were up and running by the end of The Roadkill’s performance, to cheers from the crowd.

Minneapolis rock band the4onthefloor set the tone for the rest of the weekend with an explosive set. A rock band in every sense of word, the band’s heavy blend got everyone moving, as temperatures dipped even lower.

Saturday offered a full day of activities before the evening’s entertainment. A snowmobile trail ride explored the beautiful surrounding area at 11 a.m. For those preferring an alternative mode of transportation, dog sledding demos were also offered from 1 to 3 p.m.

For amateurs and seasoned pros alike, the Otter Curling Bonspiel was available from 1 to 4 p.m.

The favorable ice fishing conditions on Otter Tail Lake were also taken advantage of by many.

The first act to hit the stage on day two was alternative country artist Cindy Jo and Dirt Road Dixie at 4 p.m., just in time for everyone to return from the day’s festivities around the lake.

North Dakota hit duet Tigirlily followed Dirt Road Dixie at 6 p.m. to the cheer of an eager crowd.

The Otterdome was packed for the closing act of the night, Pert Near Sandstone. The beloved bluegrass/Americana band had everyone dancing along to their down-home tunes.

Upright bassist Jason Bruhn mused about how great it was to be in the area, as he spent many a winter ice fishing one lake over at Battle Lake. “It almost seems like a bit of a homecoming. It’s beautiful country up here.”

Every act involved with the festival expressed their love for the experience.

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