Jamboree volunteers, staff busy prepping for weekend festival

Sean C. Morgan

Toby Keith, Aaron Lewis, Carrie Underwood, perennial favorite Neal McCoy and local singer Trevor Tagle will take the stage this weekend for the 24th Annual Oregon Jamboree.

The three-day country music and camping festival, organized and operated by the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, is a grassroots nonprofit effort to raise funds for economic development in Sweet Home. According to SHEDG, it has brought in more than $1 million that has been devoted to economic development and non-profit projects.

A crew of some 40 people worked over the weekend, and the effort will continue to ramp up as volunteers continue finish prepping the south field at Sweet Home High School for an event that draws 13,000 to 15,000 spectators each day Friday through Sunday.

“Things are looking good,” said Festival Director Robert Shamek. “We’re a little ahead of schedule as far as set-up.’

As of Sunday afternoon, volunteers were setting up fences, Shamek said. Many tents were already up, and the softball field was covered in preparation for the stage.

“We’ll start setting the stage Wednesday morning, 8 o’clock,” Shamek said.

Ticket sales have “been a little bit behind,” he said. “But we had a really great week last week.”

The show should draw about the usual number of concertgoers, he said.

The Jamboree lost Saturday night’s planned headliner on April 6 when country legend Merle Haggard died, triggering a scramble to replace him in the line-up quite late in the process.

Ben and Noel Haggard are joining Merle’s band, The Strangers, in honor of their father.

Perennial favorite Neal McCoy will also play that night, with metal rocker-turned-country-singer Aaron Lewis, formerly of Staind, headlining.

“He puts on an amazing country show,” Shamek said. “We’ve had some mixed reviews, but for the most part, people have been pretty excited to see him. Aaron has an amazing soulful voice. I think he’s going to knock it out of the park for us.”

Friday’s headliner, Underwood, has been a hit, he said.

“Carrie’s been selling a lot of single-day tickets.”

Sunday, the Jamboree extended the schedule, Shamek said.

“I’ve watched Toby Keith. He’s amazing,” and to have him on stage during the daylight just wouldn’t be the same. To extend the show, the Jamboree added local star-on-the-rise Trevor Tagle to the Sunday schedule.

Tagle, who grew up in Sweet Home, had already been scheduled for the Spirit Mountain Casino stage in Sankey Park.

“This is his first time playing the stage,” Shamek said. “He’s pretty pumped.”

With a new single, “Doin’ Me,” Shamek said, “he’s got a lot of buzz around him.”

The Lonesome Valley Rounders will kick things off Sunday, followed by Tagle, Old Dominion and Randy Houser before Keith takes the stage.

“Sunday should be a great show,” Shamek said.

In addition to the expanded schedule, Shamek said, the Jamboree is adding a bingo tent sponsored by the Spirit Mountain Casino. It will be located near the entrance in an air-conditioned tent.

“We’ve got some amazing prizes for bingo,” Shamek said. It costs $5 to play. Prizes include a mountain bike, weekends at Spirit Mountain, coolers, headphones, chairs, chairs with speakers and more.

The Thursday evening kickoff party is moving from the Safeway parking lot to the entrance area off 18th Avenue.

Safeway sponsors the event, Shamek said, and concessions will benefit a local group. The Jamboree is setting up a small stage there. Scott Schuler will broadcast on KRKT from a live remote at Safeway earlier in the day.

“We’ll move over to the entrance, right on the grass,” Shamek said. “It’ll be nicer than the hot asphalt.”

The Beautification Committee will not hold its Arts and Crafts Show this year. With that, the Jamboree has opened the Artisan Alley in Sankey Park, inside the festival grounds. It has about 14 or 15 vendors at this point.

“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Shamek said. “I think we’ve really hit every demographic in our lineup.”

He’s personally looking forward to seeing Jamboree favorite Neal McCoy, who will celebrate his birthday here.

He’s also looking forward to seeing Home Free, an a cappella group that “fills up just every show.”

McKenna Faith kicks things off at 3 p.m. on Friday. She is followed by Cort Carpenter, Chase Bryant and Carrie Underwood. Gates open at 1 p.m.

Dylan Jakobsen starts playing at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. He is followed by Josh Gracin, Home Free, Ben and Noel Haggard with The Strangers, Neal McCoy and Aaron Lewis. Gates open at 10 a.m.

Sunday begins with the Lonesome Valley Rounders at noon, followed by Trevor Tagle, Old Dominion, Randy Houser and Toby Keith. Gates open at 10 a.m.

On the Spirit Mountain Stage in Sankey Park, the annual Country Showdown winner will perform at 2 p.m., followed by Trevor Tagle, McKenna Faith and Cort Carpenter.

On Saturday, Elvis Monroe plays at 11 a.m. He is followed by Jeremy McComb, Dylan Jakobsen, Josh Gracin and Home Free.

Sunday, Kelsey Bales and Sons of Storm perform at 11 a.m. They are followed by the Eckrich Competition, the Olson Brothers Band and Lonesome Valley Rounders.

For more information about the Jamboree or SHEDG, call the Jamboree office at (541) 367-8800. For additional information about the Jamboree, visit oregonjamboree.com.