Mild weather, music make great mix

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Jo Dee Messina’s show Sunday was one of those rare, magical performances that she and fans will probably remember long after the 2007 Oregon Jamboree.

Like Clay Walker several years ago, Messina finished up her set and then gave fans a whole second dose.

Closing out the 2007 Jamboree, Messina worked her way through a 13-song set, including old hits from her first three studio albums; tunes from her new album, “Unmistakable,” such as her current single, “Biker Chick;” and a couple of covers, including Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered.”

She returned for what was supposed to be a two-song encore but stayed on for 10 more songs, Event Manager Peter LaPonte said.

It’s happened a couple of times in the past at the Jamboree, he said.

Messina played through several more songs from her new album, along with a foray outside of country music with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” along with her own hits “Bring on the Rain,” recorded as a duet with Tim McGraw; “Burn;” “Delicious Surprise;” and “Stand Beside Me.”

“Last night with Jo Dee Messina was incredible, one of those magical shows,” LaPonte said. “She put away her canned show, and she was singing from the heart.”

The crowd responded, as several thousand stayed on their feet throughout the encore, chairs in hand, cheering, singing and waving, until Messina said her final good-bye at about 8:30 p.m., two hours after her show started.

Messina was impressed by Sweet Home’s crowd, the festival and the nice backstage area, LaPonte said. “She was over-the-top appreciative of her experience. For a professional entertainer (used to the routine), this was a personal experience for her, and that rarely happens. She’ll remember Sweet Home.”

After her show, Messina signed autographs; walked back onto the stage to thank the local stagehand crew, who, she said, set the record for breaking down and loading the set she used Sunday by some 45 minutes, as they loaded her truck; and then she took time to have her photo taken with other volunteers relaxing after their jobs were finished.

Messina wasn’t the only one who delivered over the weekend.

“I think Neal (McCoy) put on the best show he’s ever put on here,” LaPonte said.

McCoy played his third Jamboree show in four years Sunday before Messina took the stage. He is a perennial fan favorite at the Jamboree.

Comment cards ask the Jamboree to bring him back every year, LaPonte said.

McCoy wants to come back too, LaPonte said. He told LaPonte just to let him and his crew know. So did Aaron Tippin, who performed Saturday night.

“He went out there and had fun,” LaPonte said. “And everybody had a lot of fun with him.”

McCoy watched the Messina show from the stage left loading dock with LaPonte, from the same area where Messina watched McCoy’s show.

The Jamboree ended on a high note with those two and Sunday openers Dale Watson and the Grascals, LaPonte said. “I just think we had our best one yet.”

Trisha Yearwood, who headlined Saturday night drew some 11,000 country music fans and was well-received, LaPonte said. “Trisha put on a great, simple show.”

She is talented and puts on a straightforward, no-nonsense show, he said.

He said the Saturday night crowd may have been the largest ever, but “we have no super accurate way of keeping exact numbers because people are coming and going.”

After last year’s official sellout with 29,700 attending, 10,400 on Saturday, LaPonte said, organizers decided to change their definition of “sellout,” since they could have sold more tickets last year.

“This time we sold clear through to the gate,” he said. He cautioned that the Jamboree’s reported attendance numbers, between 29,000 and 31,000 for all three days, is just an estimate.

The Jamboree has no way to track attendance, he said. The number of patrons inside ebbs and flows throughout the day.

“I can take a look at how many tickets we have out for a given day and look at the bodies on the field,” he said. Saturday was definitely the biggest day this year. Food and beverage sales support that, with 7 to 10 percent more sales on Saturday.

“We can do and will do a ticket count where we actually count redeemed tickets. Then we’ll know.”

If it wasn’t perfect, it was close.

“The Dierks Bentley show (on Friday) was way too loud,” LaPonte said, but there’s not much officials can do about that.

Getting the artists to comply can be difficult, he said, and difficulty getting some artists to keep the volume down is a national trend, a problem at other festivals too.

“His hardcore fans just loved it,” LaPonte said. “Others thought the volume was out of control.

“People still liked the show. He had a great light show.”

Bentley found time to put in a little community service earlier in the day Friday, when he pulled out of the backstage area about noon to meet motorcyclists who had won an auction, held by KKNU New Country in Eugene, to ride around the area with him. The charity ride raised some $2,825 for School District 55 music programs.

From Sweet Home, Mary White bid $500 for the chance to ride with Bentley. She has no motorcycle endorsement but got a friend, Steve Gaskey, to take her on his motorcycle.

Bentley does charity rides every year, he said. A ride last year raised about $100,000 for the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Bentley started riding in 1996, he said. His first bike was a Honda CX 500. He bought his first Harley-Davidson in 2003 after he received his first publishing check.

“This is going to be great,” Bentley said. “We just did a sound check. It sounds pretty good. It looks like the weather’s going to hold out, so it should be a good day.”

The weather over the weekend helped attendance stay up and kept tempers down, LaPonte said. The event had between 9,000 and 10,000 attending Friday and Sunday.

“Friday’s came early,” LaPonte said. “Sunday’s came later, but it got there. By the time Neal McCoy was there, it was full.”

While some attendees griped about tight security and the wait outside the front gate, those who spoke to The New Era were generally delighted with their experience.

“The acts have all been wonderful,” said Robin Richards of Salem, who said she was attending her second straight Jamboree. “Each one was better than the last one. There were so many people (artists) here that I haven’t seen before. I liked it so much last year, I bought tickets before I knew who was on the lineup. It’s wonderful.”

Jim and Bobbi Shier of Kaiser were people watching on Saturday between shows at their first Jamboree.

“It was fun,” they said. “We came last night for Dierks Bentley and we came back for Trisha Yearwood.”

They said they appreciated the well-behaved crowd.

Heidi Johnson, of North Bend, here for her third year, said she enjoyed the Bentley show and was looking forward to hearing Messina.

“I’m pleased, as always,” she said. “We just have the weather, the people, the music. I just look forward to every summer.”

With two artists dropping out at the last minute, LaPonte said he was “surprised at the reception our replacement artists got.” Hal Ketchum played Saturday instead of Sarah Buxton, out for personal reasons, and Bucky Covington played Saturday instead of Billy Currington, out for the summer with a medical problem.

“Both were received very well,” LaPonte said. Ketchum made a name for himself in the 1990s. His star has faded, but he keeps making music outside of the mainstream Nashville pop country scene.

Watson and the Grascals operate like Ketchum, LaPonte said, and Watson, Sunday’s first show, drew a standing ovation.

Others performing included Lorrie Morgan and Tippin, who built a bicycle and presented it to uniformed Marine sergeants Mike Freeman and James DeLeo from the Albany recruiting office on Saturday night.

The Higgins returned to the Jamboree for the second time to kick the show off Friday afternoon. Riverbilly followed with Steve Holy before Bentley took the stage.

LaPonte praised the volunteers who made the Jamboree successful this year.

The Jamboree had 560 volunteers on the roster, he said.

“Obviously, this festival only can happen with the support of our volunteers.”

Frequent comments come into the Jamboree office about what a great job the volunteers do, LaPonte said.

“I’m personally just always pleasantly surprised at just how well they do, how so many stay to get the job done.”

But the volunteers know it’s something great for the Sweet Home community, LaPonte said.

Police Chief Bob Burford reported that the event was fairly quiet inside, but “we were busy, had a very busy weekend.

“Every officer worked long hours, and they’ll continue to work long hours writing reports, finishing followup and investigations.”

Sweet Home police are still investigating several assault cases and at least one hit-and-run case from Saturday, their busiest day, Burford said. He cannot tell easily if these cases are directly linked to the Jamboree.

Inside the Jamboree grounds, police made no arrests, which is unusual, Burford said. Usually, police make at least one. Officers did issue a number of citations for minor in possession of alcohol.

Statistics on traffic are being compiled this week, Burford said, so he does not know how many driving-under-the-influence charges or traffic citations were written over the weekend.

Sweet Home received assistance from Lebanon Police Department, Linn County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police on traffic patrols.

Sweet Home has never cleared a Jamboree audience out more smoothly than it did Sunday night, Burford said. He thinks that’s because Messina’s encore was extremely long, plus veteran concertgoers are learning to hang back and pace themselves rather than making a mad rush for the streets.

Danielle Hay, of Indio, Calif., one of those veterans, said she has attended many of the past Jamborees during summers off from her job as a teacher. She said she grew up in Sweet Home and has family here.

“This kind of talent in a small town like this is unbelieveable,” said Hay, who generally attends concerts at casinos, though she did attend a large outdoor country festival in Indio, the Stagecoach Festival.

Her boyfriend, Tom Campbell, also of Indio, said that although the Stagecoach was bigger, he really enjoyed the Jamboree.

“I think these are some of the nicest people I’ve ever been to a concert with,” he said. “I don’t drink, so it’s nice to sit with someone who’s sober.”

Donna Gnos, of Lebanon, who attended Saturday with her niece, Elizabeth Hodgin, 10, said she has attended all 15 Jamborees.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” Gnos said. “The whole set-up has improved. The first year, we couldn’t leave. It was like we were stranded once we came in. The first couple of years, the back row was where the sound stage is now.”