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Volunteers at medical tent see their share of Sonshiners

Joy Yerrick of Minneapolis, left, gets her foot taped Thursday by Jean Boyum of Echo after suffering a minor injury at Sonshine. Hundreds of people volunteer their time each year at the Christian music festival, with those working the medical tent treating as many as 800 people during the four-day event. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- From cuts and scrapes to minor head injuries and heat exhaustion, the volunteers at the Sonshine medical tent have treated as many as 800 people for various reasons during the four-day event each year.

The annual Christian music festival, now in its third day, attracts nearly 20,000 people to the Willmar Civic Center and Willmar High School areas. With camping popular, many of Sonshiners are living off a steady diet of junk food and a lack of sleep.

Brad Hanson, operations manager at Willmar Ambulance Service, said heat exhaustion from bad food and a lack of the right fluids is the second-most common reason Sonshiners visit the event's medical tent.

The most common treatment is for cuts and scrapes, often the results of mosh pits or stepping on tent stakes.

The tent opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday and by noon Thursday volunteers had helped nearly 50 people. Most simply needed Band-Aids, but some have seen their ankles wrapped or have been pumped with fluids due to dehydration.

Jean Boyum, a medical volunteer from Echo, said she's thankful for the weather so far. "I'm worried that when the heat comes we'll have a lot of people in here," she said.

But, with 180 volunteers working throughout the festival and nine beds available in the tent, Jim Kroona, operations manager at the tent, said they are equipped for most medical needs.

Kroona advises Sonshiners to eat a mix of healthy food and maintain a consistent intake of fluids.

-- Jasmine Maki