Hot Country Nights: Oregon Jamboree comes ‘close’ to record attendance

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Oregon Jamboree didn’t quite match its record performance this year, but it was close, according to Festival Director Robert Shamek.

His initial estimate, based on scan counts, volunteers, vendors and sponsors, is about 15,500 to 16,000 daily attendance Friday through Sunday, Shamek said. It probably did not surpass 2014, but it’s close.

“I honestly think it was one of the smoothest festivals I’ve ever been involved with,” Shamek said. “All the teams were top-notch this year.”

The kickoff party wasn’t as big as Shamek had hoped, but he thinks probably 1,000 people attended the Thursday night concert held on 18th Avenue, up from about 800 last year.

“I think the heat keeps people away,” Shamek said.

Those who did attend were treated to a concert by Justin Lee, Matt Stell and Travis Denning.

Proceeds from the event will go to fund a new curtain system in the high school auditorium and art projects in the schools and community.

Friday night, Hank Williams Jr. headlined the first night of the three-day camping and country music festival.

Based on what he seemed to hear from everybody, “Hank put on an amazing show,” Shamek said. “It was probably the most talked about. For a 70-year-old man, he can flat put it down.”

Brothers Osborne on Sunday did a set, maybe five or 10 minutes long, where “they were just rockin’,” Shamek said. “It was pretty good.”

Brothers Osborne were the second reason that Robin and Kip Huntting of Oregon City attended the festival. Robin Huntting was the grand prize winner at the kickoff party. The package included Sweet Spots all weekend and three-day VIP passes.

They were in their RV next to the School District tennis courts when they heard the announcement that Robin Huntting had won the grand prize.

“I just said, I never win anything,” she said. “We’re getting our rootbeer floats and strawberry shortcake, and I heard it.”

They regularly attend the Jamboree, Kip Huntting said. The draw is “the community spirit. We’ve been to the (Willamette) festival; it’s kind of like a dirt festival.”

But Thursday night, they were most looking forward to seeing Cloverdayle, who were part of their church’s worship team before moving to Nashville. “We support them any time they do a CD and stuff.”

“Brothers Osborne, right now, happen to be one we really like,” said Robbin Huntting.

Rounding out the headliners was Chris Young Saturday night.

The young people at the Jamboree “loved Mitchell Tenpenny,” who played Sunday evening.

Shamek’s personal favorite was Lindsay Ell, who opened the festival Friday afternoon.

“I met her three years ago when we went to a huge conference down in Nashville,” Shamek said. At the talent-buyer’s conference, he was able to watch many showcases.

“She came out and slaughtered the electric guitar. I’ve been watching her on social media ever since.”

Shamek said he tried to get Ell last year, but she was on tour. He was able to get a contract this year, and she performed one of the small Crown Royal events in the Boys and Girls Club.

The Jamboree announced one artist for 2020 Friday evening.

“Everybody’s pretty excited for Old Dominion,” Shamek said. The group, which has had seven top-10 country hits since 2015 and will release its next album in October, won the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards Vocal Group of the Year award. The group won that award last year in addition to the Country Music Association’s award for Vocal Group of the Year.

That was the only announcement at the event, Shamek said, but “I have more to come later in the year.”

Sankey Park’s second stage was a big hit this year, Shamek said. “People are starting to figure out I’m getting some great talent over there. That shade over there, that was incredible.”

Cloverdayle and Cort Carpenter packed the park, he said.

Shamek thanked the volunteers who made it all happen. The Jamboree had “a hair over 900” volunteers this year.

Most teams had plenty of volunteers, Shamek said. The Clean Team was short, though.

“We revamped a few things,” Shamek said, noting that “everybody’s part of the Clean Team.”

Various other teams helped Clean Team members police each of their areas, he said.

Shamek said he spent the weekend all over the festival grounds, and he talked to a lot of people at the Jamboree for the first time.

“They all appreciated all of the volunteers,” Shamek said. “They were just blown away at how clean it is, how organized it is and how everybody smiles at them. Everybody with a volunteer shirt was smiling. It doesn’t happen at every festival, but it happens everywhere at this one.”

In addition to the volunteers, Shamek said he wanted to give “a big thank you to the community of Sweet Home.”

He drove around quite a bit “and it looked like a lot of the town was hopping,” which is what the festival is all about in the first place.

“I’m excited for 2020 already,” Shamek said. “But I’m really excited to take a vacation (right now).”

Overall, the Jamboree didn’t have much impact on public safety in Sweet Home during the weekend, offcials said.

“We had no significant problems,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. “The interior of the Jamboree went really well. I don’t really think we took much police action inside except a few patrons asked to leave.”

They all left willingly, Lynn said. The Jamboree volunteer and paid security handled the vast majority of issues.

Outside the Jamboree grounds, it was a little busier than last year, which was one of the quieter years, Lynn said. Police saw a small uptick in noise complaints at the campgrounds spread across the city.

Medics were busy Friday, said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. They had 19 calls – a large number, which can happen during the summer as lakes and rivers draw tourists, but it’s rare.

Saturday and Sunday, medics responded to 10 calls each day, slightly above the average of eight calls per day.

Barringer said they were able to resolve a lot of issues on the grounds in an air-conditioned trailer by giving water and cooling patrons dealing with heat and dehydration.

During the weekend, firefighters responded to a single fire, a trailer on North River Drive, he said.

The potential for a large number of calls climbs every summer with visitors to the lakes and area surrounding Sweet Home, he said. raising the potential for problems. The Jamboree increases the population and potential even higher.

“I anticipated, with the increase in patrons to the Jamboree, it would be a little busier,” Barringer said, but it didn’t reach the potential that kind of population size can generate.

In preparation, the Fire and Ambulance District increased staffing on the grounds, and it staffed a fire engine, Barringer said. Volunteer turnout for the event was high.