Local Current Blog

Is Minnesota throwing a music festival on a frozen lake? Ya, you betcha!

Johnny Holm performs at OTC-On Ice in 2018. (Otter Tail Country)

Imagine bundling up and feeling the heat of a bonfire, with homegrown Minnesota sounds wafting through the air and the soft crunch of snow under your tapping foot.

Last year Minnesotans were able to have this experience in the heart of Minneapolis at Super Bowl Live, but there’s also a festival experience in a more rural setting — and unlike Super Bowl Live, it’s coming back this year.

It’s thanks to the people of Otter Tail County, located about 200 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, where local residents have chosen to forgo hibernation in early February. For the second year running, the community-driven festival, OTC-On Ice, features Minnesota artists and takes place entirely on a frozen lake.

“This isn’t a rock festival or a country festival or a bluegrass festival, it is a music festival,” wrote Erik Osberg, the event’s coordinator, in an e-mail. “We wanted to get bands that have Minnesota roots or ties, regardless of genre.”

These bands include some well-known Minnesotan names such as Pert Near Sandstone and the 4onthefloor, in addition to some up-and-coming acts like Aaron Simmons and Cindy Jo & Dirt Road Dixie. The festival takes place on ice, so naturally, curling, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and even dogsled demos are on the docket.

Orchestrated by Otter Tail Lakes Country Association, the event is part of an ongoing effort to draw visitors to the area and “fill a void in the off-season,” wrote Osberg. “We are plenty busy up here during the summer, but it can be quiet during the winter months.”

Otter Tail County joins other small Minnesotan towns that are finding creative ways to promote the appeal of a rural lifestyle. The festival runs Feb. 8-9, 2019. Tickets and information are available here, and profits go to the area’s other promotional efforts.

Lydia Moran is a music and arts writer in Minneapolis.