Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 16, 2003

Behind the scenes at Winstock

No one goes hungry

If you attended Winstock this weekend, chances are you consumed some of the 5,700 pounds of hamburger or part of the 4,800 pounds of cheese curds eaten each year at Winstock.

Compare those numbers with the second year of Winstock. Only 800 pounds of hamburger was purchased that year, said LuAnn Ollig, chairwoman of the food for Winstock.

Even though the pounds of food consumed has increased, prices have not risen much in 10 years. A hamburger in 1994 was $2, and this weekend it was $3.

Organizing food for more than 12,000 people is quite a job, and one that is year-round.

The central committee members, Butch Amundson, Dave Danielson, Steve Laxen, Dick Langenfeld, Judy Langenfeld, Bob Mochinski, Harvey Nowak, LuAnn Ollig, Tom Ollig, Bonnie Quast, Joe Rasset, and Fr. Paul Wolf meet once a month throughout the year, and as Winstock approaches, those meetings intensify in frequency, Judy Langenfeld said.

The seven food chairpersons begin meeting in January or February, Ollig said.

The current food chairpersons are Marnie Ebensperger, Lori Hanson, Betty Johnson, Irene Kutz, Belinda Lynch, LuAnn Ollig, and Deb Thompson. Joyce Schultz also served eight years as a food chairperson, Ollig said.

More than 225 people volunteer only in the food areas, which include the main food tent and VIP/entertainer food tents.

In the main food tent, up to 30 volunteers work during a shift. There are three shifts on Friday and four on Saturday. A shift is four hours long, Ollig said.

It is up to the shift chairpersons to find 30 volunteers for their shift, Ollig said.

In the VIP/entertainer tents, between eight to 10 people work each shift, Langenfeld said.

When it comes to the entertainers, they can and do make requests, Langenfeld said, but if she can't meet the requests, the entertainer knows well ahead of time.

She'll send back the contract with the special request crossed off so he or she knows not to expect it. The first year of Continued from front

Winstock, Crystal Gayle requested a special kind of nut, Langenfeld said. She searched many cities but could not find that nut.

She usually gets positive feedback from singers.

"Many entertainers have complimented the service and food," Langenfeld said. "They are appreciative."

The entertainers eat the same menu as the VIP tent, she said. Friday night's meal is a pork chop dinner with the McLeod County Pork Producers cooking the chops.

Saturday's meal is steak, which is cooked at the tent. The sides are provided by Crow River Catering, she said. There are also snacks, and sometimes homemade cookies for performers.

With so many Winstocks under the belts of Ollig, Ebensperger, and Langenfeld, it gets a little easier every year.

For Ollig, who orders the food quantities for the event, the first year didn't go as well as hoped, she said. At the end of the weekend, there was a lot of food left over.

Ollig ordered food for approximately 5,000 people, but only 1,200 attended the show that first year.

Much of the food could not be bought back by the wholeseller, Ollig said, so a "garage sale" was conducted after church Sunday morning after Winstock at Holy Trinity.

Now, every year a garage sale is conducted at Holy Trinity if there is leftover perishable food or items that can't go back, Ollig said.

Food items that don't sell, such as buns, are donated to the McLeod County Food Shelf, Ollig said.

Now Ollig has a formula she uses when ordering quantities of food. She plugs numbers in and out comes her order.

She doesn't think quantities will change much from now on because the average number of people at Winstock should stay around 12,000.

The most important aspect in the food tent is the level of easiness in food preparation and keeping it warm. "The easier, the better," Langenfeld said with a laugh.

For five years, volunteers in the food tent battered their own cheese curds, Ebensperger said. "Workers would tape their gloves onto their hands so the batter wouldn't run into their gloves. They would be covered in beer batter by the end of their shift," she said.

Now, Ollig buys pre-battered cheese curds. "You can't tell the difference taste-wise," Ebensperger said.

The food committee has tried different food items in the past that is different from the staples they have every year (hamburgers, brats, French fries, cheese curds, chicken strips, and nachos). Grilled chicken sandwiches and roast beef sandwiches were two items the committee tried. However, there wasn't enough demand for them to keep them around, Ollig said.

Also, keeping the food at a consistent temperature is a concern, Ollig said. The health inspector inspects all the food facilities, which includes the outside food vendors before food selling can begin. "He has his thermometer everywhere," she said.

The food tents and vendors must also be inspected by an electrical inspector, Ollig said.

So, if the food can't be kept hot conveniently, it probably won't make it onto the Winstock menu. But the food committee is always thinking of ideas, Ebensperger said.

Ollig is also in charge of organizing the food vendors. This year she signed 11. The first year she had only two, she recalled.

"As the crowd gets bigger, the more vendors that want to come in," she said.

No two vendors can sell the same product as each other or the food tent, including pop, she said. They can have other beverages such as lemonade.

It's not hard finding the vendors; "they want in," Ollig said. She usually has the vendors set by March.

Vendors do not pay a fee to set up at Winstock. Instead, they pay a certain percent of their gross profits, Ollig said. The percentage is negotiated in each vendor's contract.

Even though Winstock itself is only two days, setting up begins days earlier on the grounds.

The majority of volunteers and chairpersons work full-time jobs, so it means time off from work for them to help set up. Ollig has been an accounting supervisor at Sterner Lighting for 30 years, Ebensperger a teacher at Holy Trinity for 26 years, and Langenfeld has been a part-time domestic engineer.

Refrigerated trailers must be brought onto the grounds and put in place, tents must go up, and the fryers and grills must be set up.

All that setting up takes time and people. Then, after the shows Friday and Saturday nights, the last shift at the food tent goes to Holy Trinity to wash dishes for the next two hours, Ollig said.

Inventory must also be taken before the music starts and at the end of the weekend, she said.

And if things do happen to go awry, "you just have to laugh," Langenfeld said.

Everyone on the committees is friends, she said. "If you didn't know someone real well before, you do now."

Though Winstock is a lot of hard work, determination, and sweat, many wouldn't have it any other way.

Security keeps people safe

There were more security people than attendees at the first Winstock 10 years ago.

"We really had to gear up for the potential," said Winsted Police Chief and head of Winstock security Mike Henrich. "Each year the festival has grown."

For the first four years of Winstock, the festival took place at the Winsted Municipal Airport ­ across the road from its current location. Attendance numbers for the first couple of years were in the low thousands. Now, attendance reaches around 12,000 a day.

"It has really changed a lot now," Henrich said. "There is more emphasis on the campgrounds. It basically ends up being a small city composed of campers."

Overall, security problems have been fairly limited. Most problems deal in some way with alcohol, Henrich said. There also have been several instances of arson on the Winstock grounds, in which several Mini-Biffs have been set on fire.

One additional security measure brought in three or four years ago is ASIA Security, based out of Minneapolis. The company monitors the gates into the festival, parking lots, backstage area, and the seating areas.

Mounted police also patrol the grounds on horseback. These steeds are used for several purposes, Henrich said. One is the height advantage in the campgrounds, and another big reason is if a large crowd of people ever has to be moved in a hurry, the horses can assist with that.

"Most of them are well-trained," Henrich said. "It also cuts down the need of extra personnel. There are eight horses at a given time out there, and they work in shifts. They bring their own water and food, and form their own little city for the weekend, too."

Mounted cops come from Meeker and Carver Counties. The members from Carver County donate their time and services, with the funds normally being paid to them going into their reserve fund.

Sheriff's reserve and posse from McLeod, Carver, Meeker, and Sibley Counties, as well as well as the cities of Silver Lake, Lester Prairie, and Glencoe.

Other issues dealt with at Winstock include domestic disputes, and counterfeiting wrist-bands, passes, and tickets.

"One gentleman pulled in with a Porsche with a counterfeit VIP parking pass, VIP wrist-bands, and a counterfeit pass from a band," Henrich said. "We cut his bands, kicked him out, and towed his car."

"The banding and ID process has always been an issue ­ it's something we're learning a lot about," Henrich said. "There are things like adults buying minors adult wrist-bands, and people trying to get in with fake ones."

Several other things that stand out in the minds of the security chiefs include the burning ban that was in effect three years ago, and having to go around letting people know they couldn't have campfires.

Artist security is one of the top priorities also at Winstock. Each singer, in his or her contract, has certain requirements that must be met.

"The present location works really well for that with the chain-link fence," Henrich said. "When (country singer) Doug Supernaw was here, he is an artist that liked to go in the crowd after his show.

"We were in the process of escorting him out because he didn't have a wrist-band, and he tried to explain who he was, telling security to ask anyone around and they will tell them who he was.

"We asked one lady, and she had no idea," he said. "Finally one of the deejays came up and said 'That's him.'"

If weather is an issue, the most important thing is early notification, Henrich said. "We don't have shelter for 12,000 people, so we need to get to the people early and let them make their decisions on what they need to do."

In addition to ASIA Security, and the mounted police, there are also about 25 volunteer security personnel.

"My wife and her family have also played a big part in the volunteer side of things," Henrich said.

"The good part about all of this is that you make a lot of friends," he said. "Year to year, security has established relationships with the campers that are there every year. There is one couple that offers some security personnel a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings."

One thing noted when getting feedback from Winstock goers is the quality of the security, said Winstock committee liason Bob Mochinski.

"Some events get reputations for more trouble," Mochinski said. "Winstock has always been a place people can bring their families, and security makes that difference."

More Mini-Biffs per capita than We Fest

How many Mini-Biffs does it take to do an outdoor country music festival?

That depends on the festival that you attend, according to Ryan Barrick, part owner of Mini-Biff of Litchfield.

For Winstock, it takes about 240 Mini-Biff toilets to service the estimated 10,000 people attracted to the event.

This is a very good ratio when compared to other events, such as the We Fest in Detroit Lakes, which uses about 300 toilets ­ but attracts 70,000 people, Barrick said.

The Minnesota State Fair also keeps about 300 toilets where portable ones are needed, he said.

Ten years ago, Winstock started out with about 80 Mini-Biffs, Barrick said.

This number has been growing over the years, hitting 120 toilets a few years ago, to the 240 Mini-Biffs needed for the 2003 festival, he said.

Barrick has been with Winstock through all 10 years, although the ownership of Mini-Biff of Litchfield changed hands in 1997.

Barrick now owns the business along with Chuck and Luann Rausch.

"We're one of the first people to get out there," Barrick commented, saying that Winstock is his biggest project through the year.

In recent years, the business has contracted out part of the work to Action Service of Rochester.

The coordinators of Winstock are efficient and do a good job, he said.

"They're good people to work with," Barrick said of the Winstock committee.

Through the years, Barrick has seen some strange stuff, including Mini-Biffs set on fire, he said.

Last year, five Mini-Biffs were set ablaze, Barrick said. The year before, three were started on fire, and the year before, one.

What happens to the burned Mini- Biffs?

"We usually end up junking them," he added. Each Mini-Biff is worth about $650.

Another strange thing Barrick has witnessed over the years is being tipped for his work, he said.

"One lady tipped me five bucks for cleaning," he said.

Each biffy has usual modern features of hand sanitizer, being cleaned twice a day.

It also gets tough to service the Mini-Biffs when the weather turns rainy, he said.

Mud makes it hard to move around to service each biffy on schedule, he said.

"Last year was kind of tough," Barrick said, although he remembers the rains of 1998 quite well, when they had to use a tractor to pull the truck around needed to service each toilet.


Patrons of Winstock wouldn't be able to enjoy a cold glass of beer if it weren't for the 175 volunteers who make the beer tents in general admission and VIP possible.

Joe Rasset heads up the beer portion of Winstock. He also has key people who he delegates responsibilities to, including Chuck Selchow, Max Fasching, Ryan Helmbrecht, and Andy Heimerl.

Rasset has been in charge of beer for eight years.

Selchow has helped Rasset for eight years, Fasching for six, Helmbrecht for five, Heimerl for two, and Alvin Arens has assisted Helmbrecht in VIP for three years.

He emphasized that volunteers make the event successful. "It's not a (Holy Trinity) parish effort, it's a community effort," he said.

Obtaining volunteers for beer distribution is getting easier, but at one time it was not.

Rassat and Selchow came up with an idea of vouchers to entice volunteers. Any volunteers who completed a four-hour shift at Winstock would get a $20 voucher that they could redeem in merchandise or if they bought a ticket, they could get $20 off it.

Now, many of his volunteers tell him to sign them up again next year when they finish their shift for this year.

"I know we're doing something right when they come excited to work," he said.

Some volunteers work more than just in the beer tent. Some also work the ticket booths, the food tent, or parking. "Some names I see repeated on the lists. They may only work at the beer tent for four hours, but the rest of the weekend they're working other areas," he said. Or, some work double shifts, he added.

Volunteering at Winstock is something the whole family can do, Rasset said. His wife, Kathy, and Selchow's wife, Lisa, work with the volunteers to make sure everything is organized and that they are informed of everything they need to know.

Their son, Nick, 18, and daughter, Molly, 16, also help out. "They do lots of running for supplies. They're an extra hand," he said.

Even Ben, 5, the Rassets' youngest son, has had a hand in Winstock.

He helped Rasset clean up the security trailer that had its roof blown off last year the day before Winstock.

Ben told Rasset that he saved Winstock by helping clean the trailer.

Rasset's nieces and nephews also help at Winstock. They bring friends from college to come work for the weekend.

"It's definitely fun," he said. "I forget during the year how much fun it is and then as it gets closer, the adrenaline gets going," Rasset said. I couldn't imagine not being a part of it."

The beer tent has transformed throughout the 10 years. It started out as one tent. Rassat's first year working at Winstock, 45 halves (16-gallon kegs) were consumed.

The tent eventually split into two tents for more room, and beer consumption was 110 halves Rasset's second year, and his third year it was up to 220 halves, he said.

When the event was at the Winsted Municipal Airport, everything had to be dollied in. No vehicles were allowed on the runway. Those four years it was at that location, there was only one accident in transporting the beer. One guy lost his fingertip when a keg fell, Rasset said.

At the current location, it took time and planning to get the grounds set up to support beer trucks. The first year there, a rock base was put in next to the beer tent for the beer trucks to park on because the ground was so saturated, he said.

The VIP area was a mess the first year, he said. It was full of mud and sludge because it had rained so much before the weekend. Fasching dug trenches around VIP and got ahold of a sludge pumper.

Fasching would run the pumper between acts to get the water out. At the end of the night, he was head to toe in mud. When asked if he was coming back next year, he responded with, "don't ask me right now," Rasset said.

Another year it was extremely hot, and ice supplies were low by early Saturday afternoon, Rasset said. He had ordered about 10,000 pounds of ice for the different areas on the grounds. He doesn't order for outside food vendors.

He sent Fasching on a mission to find as much ice as he could. He came back with about a pallet of ice from convienence and grocery stores in Hutchinson. The van he was in was sagging to the ground and had water coming out the back. "We made it through the rest of the day and night with barely any to spare," he said. Rasset ordered 15,000 pounds of ice this year.

Other changes in the beer tent include consolidating into one 40 foot by 120 foot tent, going from beer trucks to cold plates, and the introduction of wine coolers.

The first year there were wine coolers, Rasset bought 96 cases of Seagram's berry wine coolers. Only about half sold, he said. He brought the rest to the garage sale at the Holy Trinity Church Sunday morning, where he sold the remainder because he couldn't return them.

The next year he bought another 96 cases, but this time he didn't have any to sell Sunday morning.

Two years ago, Rasset purchased Mike's Hard Lemonade wine coolers. Mike's was a unique addition to the Winstock beverage selection because it had only been on the market for one week as a 3.2 liquor beverage and Rasset had secured about 240 cases of it for Winstock.

Mike's is originally more than five percent alcohol by volume, but Rasset let the alcohol company know that if they made a 3.2 version of Mike's, that Winstock would be interested in that product.

Rasset gives a lot of credit to Locher Brothers in Green Isle for keeping Winstock supplied with beer for the last 10 years.

"They have been really great to work with. Many of their employees work over their required shifts," he said. "They take care of us."

"If I run into some of the employees some place, they ask how it's going and who's going to be at Winstock," he said.

Rasset also recognized Bernick's Pepsi, which has stepped up its service the last few years, he said.

"Everything is where we want it to be, service-wise." he said.

He does have one wish list item though, a 40 foot by 120 foot metal shed (beer tent) at Winstock one day so ticket booths and orange fencing and things can be stored in it afterward, he said.

Knowing Rasset's determination and dedication, he may get his wish some day.

Cleaning up

Whenever 10,000 people converge at one place, there is bound to be something left to clean up.

In the case of Winstock, there is enough garbage to fill 35 dumpsters and about 150 household carts, according to Steve Metz, district manager of Waste Management.

In fact, a crew shows up early Saturday morning to suck and blow garbage using a large vacuum and leaf blowers on the infield and VIP areas of Winstock, Metz said.

About eight employees push the loose garbage into windrows, with the rows being sucked into a giant vacuum pulled by a tractor, he said.

"It's a significant amount," he said.

This is in addition to emptying the usual containers, he said.

After the festival, Monday and Tuesday, Waste Management tends to the chore of picking up the campground areas.

The job takes about 150 man hours, with Sentence to Serve people being used at times, he said.

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