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 email@example.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