Jamboree announces lineup additions

Scott Swanson

The Oregon Jamboree has nearly completed its lineup for the weekend of Aug. 4-6.

Newly announced are Larry Fleet, Drake Milligan, Alana Springsteen, Toast and Jam, George Ducas, Ben Fuller and Cloverdayle.

They will join Main Stage headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cody Johnson and Parker McCollum, along with supporting acts Lainey Wilson, Ashley McBryde and Kameron Marlowe.

To get things rolling, the Jamboree is hosting its second annual Music and Brews festival April 14-16 and will once again hold Tune It Up Tuesdays in June.

Oregon Jamboree Lineup

Not all the big names are on the Jamboree Main Stage this year.

The Deschutes Brewery Park Stage lineup includes headliners Warren Zeiders, Ned LeDoux and Shane Profitt, with Jackson Michelson, George Ducas, Scruggs and The Steelbenders, Dry Canyon Stampede, Eli Howard and The Greater Good, Jake and The Hill People, Pulp Western and Kaden Madden.

“Last year we definitely had some pretty big names on the Deschutes Stage, who really kept our patrons engaged,” festival Director Robert Shamek said. “The whole Sankey Park is such a nice park now; people just love to cross that bridge and hang out there. I’m pretty sure we’re going to pack that park again like we did last year.”

As its 2023 events approach, things are going well, Shamek said.

After 10 years of competition from the Willamette Music Festival through 2018, followed by the COVID pandemic in 2020, which forced Jamboree organizers to cancel that year’s festival, this year’s event appears to be hitting on all cylinders, with a lineup rich in young talent behind some established stars, and increasing revenues.

“Rolling into 2023 and having not just our headliners, which are great, we also got some really good snags like Laney Wilson and Ned LeDoux,” Shamek said, acknowledging that organizers have “switched it up a little bit this year,” bringing in classic Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, which is still drawing sell-out crowds 60 years after its founding but has announced that it is going to “retire from touring” soon, and “rodeo-style” country star Johnson.

“We were able to pick up a lot that are really up-and-coming artists, that are just knocking it out of the park right now,” Shamek said.

The three Deschutes Stage headliners are “totally different,” he noted.

“Warren Zeider is a little more red-dirtish, while Ned LeDoux is a little more rodeo-style.”

Profitt, he said, is more “original country.”

“He’s crushin’ it right now. He has a bomb of a voice.”

Wilson, with four Country Music Awards nominations this year, is joined by Johnson, McBryde and Milligan in the 2023 CMA nominees list.

“They’re all doing really well, which is awesome,” Shamek said.

Cloverdayle artists Chad and Rachel Hamar will return, not only to the Main Stage but as emcees.

“They did a phenonemal job last year,” Shamek said, noting that although the Hamars live in Nashville, they grew up in Oregon. “They have a lot of ties to Oregon.”

He said the Jamboree is “way ahead on ticket sales,” noting that reserved seating is close to sold-out and the premiere section is “pretty much sold out.”

“Because of Cody Johnson and Laney Wilson and Ashley McBryde, I think we’ll sell all of our pit passes this year. As soon as we opened it up it just took off.”

McBryde is back in the lineup after being scheduled to appear in the 2021 festival but was unable to get to Sweet Home after her bus broke down en route from the Watershed festival.

Shamek noted that the rise to stardom in country music has greatly accelerated due to social media exposure.

Attendees, he said, “want to see these up-and-coming acts that are just, you know, destroying social media right now. They’re just rising so fast. They want to see them up close before they can’t. I mean, it can’t be too much longer and Lainey Wilson, she’s going to be headlining.”

Wilson’s popularity, he noted, has been bolstered by her appearance last fall on “Yellowstone,” in which she plays Abby, a free-spirited musician.

“She’s just super-talented,” Shamek said.

He said organizers “brainstorm” and “watch all the trends” to identify performers who might be a good fit for the Jamboree.

“It’s insane, how fast they are taking off. I have to look at all the social media outlets to figure out who you think is going to jump to the top and try to get them before they’re unreachable.”

It’s not just the big festival that’s in the works this year. The Jamboree is returning with the two smaller events it has started in the past few years, Music and Brews in the spring and Tune It Up Tuesdays in June.

Music and Brews

The second Music and Brews event is scheduled for April 14-15, to be held on the former Willamette mill property off of 18th Avenue.

This year’s event, attendance to which is limited to those 21 or older, will feature eight bands – Jake Nacrelli and The Hill People, Scruggs and the Steelbenders, Dry Canyon Stampede and Ashland Craft on Friday, April 14, and Adam Larson and Co., Pulp Western, Toast and Jam and Ryan Griffin on Saturday. The Music and Brews lineup also includes Ben Fuller, who will perform not only on the Jamboree Main Stage, but on Sunday morning at Community Chapel during the festival.

“We have full bands, all day long, all night long,” Shamek said. “I mean, from our very first one, they’re all really good artists, which is a ton of fun to have. Most all of these bands are either from central Oregon or the Portland area. Most of them have played a Jamboree or Tune It Up Tuesdays.”

Shamek said enthusiasm after last year’s inaugural two-day festival was high.

“We had about 500 people last year and every single one of them walked out of there, just having a ball. So I know every one of those people, all those patrons are coming back this year and hopefully they’ll bring a friend. It’ll definitely be a fun weekend.”

Tickets are $30 each, with upgrades available. The event will include food and merchandise vendors, a few local artisan brewers and cider makers, with more on tap.

Shamek said he’s hoping to double last year’s attendance.

The event will be held under a heated tent that, he said, will be one of the largest available.

“We’re putting up a 100- by 150-foot tent free-span tent. That’s about as big as they get.”

Onsite dry RV and tent camping will be available.

More information is available at oregonjamboree.com/music-brews.

Tune It Up Tuesdays

The Jamboree will hold Tune It Up Tuesdays for the third year, featuring regional up-and-coming artists, on Tuesday evenings through the month of June.

“The level of talent is really growing,” Shamek said, acknowledging that when the series was first launched in the fall of 2021, “I had to go out and beg and borrow” talent.

Now it’s a hot ticket, he said.

“People are coming out of the woodwork, which is fantastic. People see it on our social media and they see how many people show up for it. It’s turned out really well.”

He noted that one slot in the lineup of Deschutes Stage performers is reserved for the performer(s) who gets the most votes in a “Battle of the Bands” from Tune It Up Tuesdays audience members, so there’s a lot of interest in that as well.

That’s how Toast and Jam made it onto the Deschutes Stage last year and this year is appearing not only on the Main Stage but at Music and Brews.

Improving Financials

After a decade of competing with the Willamette Country Music Festival, sponsored by Bi-Mart, which took place two weeks after the Jamboree at a location literally within 15 miles and featured some of the biggest names in country music, the Oregon Jamboree was not in good financial condition.

The Willamette festival ground to a halt in late 2018 after Linn County officials refused to revoke its operating permit, citing lax security and excessive alcohol consumption.

Last fall Anne Hankins, 53, who was promoter of the festival before she was fired in late 2018, pled guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering after, prosecutors said, falsely reporting that the Willamette Country Music Concerts, of which she was co-owner and president, had $1.1 million in its bank account. In reality the amount was $16,000. Hankins had falsified bank statements and financial summaries to influence the sale of her stake in the company.

Vendors associated with the Willamette festival complained that they had not gotten payment for their services.

Competition from Willamette and other area country music festivals forced Jamboree organizers to find ways to cut costs, as artists’ fees were skyrocketing.

Jamboree officials scrambled for ways to economize and produce new revenue streams, launching the Mystery Concerts series and other peformances outside Sweet Home to build the Oregon Jamboree’s brand.

“It was an uphill battle,” said Shamek, who succeeded Erin Regrutto as festival director in 2015. “You know, we had the competing festival that was just throwing money at itself, hand over fist, not realizing they were losing the battle.”

Then the pandemic arrived, shutting down the 2020 festival entirely and reducing attendance numbers for 2021, when organizers got the OK in April to pull together a hastily organized event.

According to financial IRS reports filed by SHEDG, the organization had a loss of $223,689 in 2017, followed by a loss of $27,562 in 2018. But in 2019 SHEDG reported its first profits in years, $150,358, before going into the red again in 2020 with a deficit of $34,825. Reports for 2021 and 2022 are not available.

“Before COVID hit, we were just starting to really pull ourselves out and had a couple of really good years,” Shamek said. “And then COVID hit us like a brick wall. And you know, we’re right back to negative square one.”

He said “a lot of amazing sponsors pitched in” and the fact that “the bulk of our patrons” opted to keep their tickets in 2020, rather than take refunds, helped stem the bleeding.

Shamek said he couldn’t give figures for last year’s Jamboree, which “was actually a really good year,” he said, despite the weather.

“It was hot. I would have to say that out of all the Jamborees that I’ve ever been part of, and I think that’s roughly 16 or 17 years, that it was the hottest, most humid Jamboree on record,” he said, adding that sales within the festival compound drop when attendees stay in their camps or stay home until the day cools off.

One change last year was that high school athletic teams and other representatives of the local schools stepped up their partipation in the set-up and break-down activities, as well as the festival itself, Shamek said.

Local Economic Benefits

According to Larry Johnson, former high school athletic director and longtime Jamboree supervisor, last year 19 separate groups participated in manning booths, running showers, staffing parking lots and transporting ice, water, soda, Krispy Kreme donuts and more. Together, Johnson said, they raised some $44,000 for local schools and activities.

The ice cream booth operated by Holley School parents and teachers raised $8,000 alone, and SAFE volunteers raised $2,000. Sweet Home Swim Club members raised $1,000.

Johnson noted that some of those fundraising activities have continued since the Jamboree was founded, 30 years ago.

An economic impact study conducted last summer by the International Festival and Events Association, in partnership with Jon Stover and Associates economic development consultants, found that the 2022 Jamboree produced some $4.5 million in attendee spending, $1.8 million in supply chain transactions and $1.4 million of employee spending, resulting in a total economic impact of $6.6 million in additional business revenue.

Attendee spending at the festival, the study found, directly supported 41 jobs and $1.2 million in salaries and wages, generating $163,000 in tax revenue – $33,000 for the county, $51,000 for local municipalities within the county, and $79,000 in funds for local schools and special districts, such as Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District.

The study noted that only 13% of the approximately 14,500 attendees in 2022 were first-time patrons; most have been coming to the festival for 15 years. Three out of four festival attendees were from outside Linn County, according to the study, and 17% were from out of state. The average increase in sales at local businesses, the study reported, was 83%; the average attendee spent $309.