WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? - Let's play three: Fair concert stacks up acts

The Band Perry, LoCash Cowboys and Joey+Rory: What's up with that?

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Summer - at least on the calendar - is upon us and that means the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days isn't far away.

This year's opening night concert seems to be getting a big push on the radio. I heard a spot the other day urging me to buy my tickets to see Joey+Rory.

Joey+Rory? Didn't that husband-and-wife team play the fair in 2009? Aren't The Band Perry and LoCash Cowboys the acts being brought in to open the fair?

What's up with that?

Yes, The Band Perry and LoCash Cowboys are opening the fair. Yes, Joey+Rory opened the fair in 2009. And yes, the duo has booked for the 2011 fair.This year's concert is a triple-header.

Cory Hewitt, fairgrounds manager, said she is as surprised as anybody that the fair will have three acts on opening night, Aug. 31.

But, she said, the fair received a phone call from Joey+Rory's management indicating they wanted to play the fair this year.

"They said, ‘You guys had Joey+Rory a few years ago, they bought some wine when they were there, they are down to their last bottle of wine and want to come back,'" Hewitt said.

Hewitt wanted Joey+Rory back. She said Joey and Rory Feek were extremely popular with the crowd.

"They had the biggest applause when they left the stage," she said. "After the show they signed autographs (for nearly two hours). The line stretched out to the food vendors. You don't always get that. …

"We thought they were great people. They talked with everyone. They are just so down to earth. That's why we wanted to bring them back. Three bands, one night, one price."

Hewitt is thrilled with the turn of events. She said booking top acts for a fair that's, well, off the beaten path is challenging. Generally, theWalla Walla fair tries to link with as many other fairs in the Northwest as possible so the performers can go from one to another so they can work for at least a week or more straight.

Even then, she said, deals often fall apart. For example, she said, a few years ago it looked as if the regional fairs could put together a deal that would have brought Grammy winner Miranda Lambert to Walla Walla.

But when Lambert was able to get a 21-day run working with Toby Keith, the Pacific Northwest deal fell apart. Walla Walla got dumped.

A few of the acts that play the fair circuit are on the edge of breaking out, and those are the singers the Walla Walla fair targets, Hewitt said. These are often singers well known among country music fans but not necessarily household names.
Walla Walla has had more than its share of big-name stars on their way up. In 1974 Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard played the fair. Other stars-on-the-rise include Freddie Fender, Barbara Mandrell, the Judds and K.T. Oslin.

"We are excited we got The Band Perry, but we were concerned we would lose them" because The Band Perry has become a hot act, Hewitt said. The trio was nominated for its first Grammy earlier this year.

But instead of losing The Band Perry, the fair was able to add LoCash Cowboys to the show. The LoCash Cowboys - Chris Lucas and Preston Brust - are also on the rise. Lucas and Brust were featured this week on the Travel Channel's "Man v. Food Nation" as they each attempted to eat a 72-ounce steak, baked potato, salad and Texas toast in one hour. They failed, but it's a sign they are on the nation's radar.

And when Joey+Rory singed on, Hewitt said, it all just fit together.Ticket prices are $25 to $40. The show, which begins at 6:30 p.m., will be a little less than three hours. Rory+Jory will perform for 40 minutes, LoCash Cowboys for 60 minutes and The Band Perry for 60 to 70 minutes.

"It is nice to have variety and three groups going up the charts. They are all songwriters with new, fresh material," she said. "… It's country, but it is also a little bit of rock and roll. They are going to be fun … that is what we look for. We want entertainers, not just singers."

Rick Eskil can be reached at rickeskil@wwub.com or 509-526-8309. If you, too, wonder what's up with that, let Eskil know about it and maybe he can find out.

Here's a listing of fair concert acts over the years:

2011 The Band Perry, LoCash Cowboys, Joey+Rory

2010 Gary Allan, Bomshel

2009 Blake Shelton with Joey+Rory

2008 Tracy Lawrence, Chris Cagle

2007 Neal McCoy, Keith Anderson

2006 Trace Adkins with the Drew Davis Band

2005 Phil Vassar with Amy Clawson

2004 Sawyer Brown with Kellie Coffey

2003 Diamond Rio

2002 Rockin' Roadhouse Tour - Mark Chestnut, Joe Diffie, Tracy Lawrence

2001 Lonestar, The Nelsons

2000 Sammy Kershaw, Cledus T. Judd

1999 Terri Clark, Ty Herndon

1998 Collin Raye, Sherri Austin

1997 Trisha Yearwood, Lonestar

1996 Pam Tillis, Rick Trevino

1995 Tim McGraw, Martina McBride

1994 Mark Chestnut, Confederate Railroad

1993 Tanya Tucker, Joe Diffie

1992 Ricky Van Shelton

1991 Oak Ridge Boys

1990 John Denver

1989 K.T. Oslin, Southern Pacific

1988 Glen Campbell, Sweethearts of the Rodeo

1987 The Judds

1986 Roy Clark

1985 Lee Greenwood, Sylvia

1984 Charlie Pride

1983 Mel Tillis

1982 Louise Mandrell, R.C. Bannon

1981 Ronnie Milsap

1980 Barbara Mandrell

1979 Eddie Rabbit

1978 Rusty Drapper, Marilee Rush

1977 Freddie Fender, Jeannie C Riley

1976 Tanya Tucker

1975 Lynn Anderson

1974 Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton

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