It’s not every day you get to work with a legend, and Rick Born, of RB Productions, and producer of Wayzata’s James J. Hill Days Beach Bash Concert can attest to that. James J. Hill Days (JJHD) has celebrated the history of Wayzata since 1975 as the town’s largest community festival, bringing together residents and guests with family events, street markets and a carnival. In 2013, Born’s proposal for a concert series and the addition of music promotion legend Rand Levy were just what the Wayzata Chamber planning committee needed to take James J. Hill Days to the next level.
The Beach Bash concert series at JJHD stemmed from Born’s history of event and concert promoting, a passion of his since his early 20s. When chamber member Peter Hitch approached Born about getting in touch with his high school friend who worked as a concert promoter, Born wasn’t immediately on board. “At the time, I was planning on doing it myself with my own team, but almost as a courtesy I asked Hitch who it was,” Born says. “When he said ‘Rand Levy,’ I did a 180 and told him I absolutely wanted to gauge his interest. After all, the guy is a legend in the Midwest concert promotion business.”
Since the start of Beach Bash in 2013, Rand Levy has worked with Born and the Wayzata Chamber to produce the event. Buying talent, contract workups and stage setup are but a few items on Levy’s long checklist to make sure the one to two day transformation from parking lot to concert venue goes off without a hitch. Luckily, his experience in music promotion makes him no stranger to logistics.
Levy’s career in the music promotion industry spans more than 45 years. The 30-year co-owner of country music festival We Fest (he sold it in 2014), is the founder of Rose Presents, a music promotion company that works with Rhymesayers Entertainment to produce Soundset Festival at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Rose Presents also promotes Canterbury Park’s Warped Tour and Festival Palomino, celebrating their 20th and second years, respectively.
Levy started his career in 1969 when he and a friend created a company to sell bands to high schools, and later to colleges and universities. “Eventually, an agent called me from New York and said they didn’t have anyone to handle the new bands like REO Speedwagon, Journey, even Bruce Springsteen,” Levy says, “all the bands that became big acts in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I would take them, called ‘baby bands,’ and they would play in a theater and then grow. I was just booking bands, and then eventually booking bigger stuff.”
What’s most compelling about Levy is not just his experience promoting iconic talent—the Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra, to name a few—but rather how his success is matched only by his modesty. For Levy, accomplishment isn’t fulfilled by the name in lights above a venue, but rather by the execution of a well-run event.
That dedication is exactly why Levy is an integral leader of the Beach Bash team. “If you walked into the Thursday setup of the concerts, you would know exactly who was running it,” says Brooke Beyer, director of community events and marketing with the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce. “He talks to the ticket counter volunteer the same way he talks to an A-list artist. He treats everyone with the same level of respect and dignity, and never takes it too seriously.”
Levy’s perspective extends beyond the day of an event. “Really, all I am is a facilitator of memories,” he says. “I love music, but I’m more passionate about the quality of presentation. For many people, this is their night on the town. Maybe this is their first concert or their 100th concert, but they certainly expect it to be well-run and organized.”
James J. Hill Days and Beach Bash have had a significant impact on Wayzata and the surrounding communities. “Thanks to both Rick and Rand, the A-list concerts have completely elevated this event to a whole new level,” says Beyer. “The excitement and energy they bring to this small lake community is incredible, and we are grateful for that.”
Heidi Nelson, city manager of Wayzata, says the community celebration is a reunion for everyone in the lake area, and a great opportunity for local shops to showcase their products. “Our businesses in town do great that weekend,” Nelson says. “You’re bringing a whole new audience to the area, going to restaurants and stores. It’s a pretty big economic boon to the community as well.”
The chamber expects the growth to continue. “We’re not only looking to be the best festival around the lake, but we also feel we can eventually compete with the best festivals in the Twin Cities,” Beyer says. “And with the players we have involved and the activities we keep dreaming of, we feel it will only be a matter of time before we start getting that recognition.”
From Born’s conception of Beach Bash to the addition of Levy as a producer, James J. Hill Days has an opportunity to define itself as a real competitor in Twin-Cities festivals.
Born, Beyer and the rest of the chamber are grateful to have Levy on board to continue facilitating that growth. “He simply knows what he’s doing,” Born says of Levy’s contributions. “He brings a calm to what is inevitably a hectic and stressful ordeal. It’s comforting to know that I have the best in the business keeping this train on its track.”
Says Beyer, “He makes it fun—and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.”
James J. Hill Days
September 11, 12 and 13, with Beach Bash Concerts on Friday and Saturday. Check out the festival’s Facebook page and website at the beginning of this month for the big reveal of this year’s artists. One will be a country headliner, the other from contemporary rock. This year is expected to be the biggest Beach Bash yet. “To put in in perspective, our budget for Friday night’s headliner is five times the first year budget and double last year’s budget,” says Rick Born, sponsor and producer of the concert series. “I will say that fans are going to be very pleased.”