The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

T-riffic Jamboree


August 2, 2016

TOBY KEITH sings in the setting sun Sunday.

"From Toby Keith to Trevor Tagle, festival gives fans top stars along with new talent"

After some last-minute line-up shuffling following the death of scheduled headliner Merle Haggard earlier this year, the 24th Annual Oregon Jamboree came off with good times for just about everybody there, officials said.

And there were a lot there. The festival drew nearly 14,000 country music fans on Friday, 13,000 Saturday and 14,000 on Sunday.

Camping was down a bit in the outlying campgrounds, said first-year Festival Director Robert Shamek, but the main ones were full.

“It seemed to be a really mellow crowd,” said Shamek, who is in his 11th year of involvement with the Jamboree. “It was eerily calm.”

He said he was pleased with how the festival ran this year and the response from fans.

“Carrie (Underwood) always puts on an amazing show,” he said. “The crowd loved her. She did great.”

Though Shamek said he wasn’t sure she would use the new T-shaped stage (“called a T-thrust) on the front of the stage, he was excited to see her running from one end of it to the other, high-fiving fans in the Sweet Spot and the VIP section.

Saturday night, Aaron Lewis wasn’t as popular with some concertgoers, but he had his fans.

“Aaron Lewis has an amazing voice,” Shamek said. “When he came back and sang three solos just acoustic by himself, it was mind-blowing how well he can sing.”

Lewis, the former front man for the metal band Staind, was a replacement headliner for Haggard, who died April 6.

Also performing Saturday were Merle’s sons, Ben and Noel Haggard with Merle’s band, The Strangers. The junior Haggards both had fans talking afterward about how uncannily they sounded like their dad.

Perennial Jamboree favorite Neal McCoy played and celebrated his birthday just ahead of Lewis in his eighth Sweet Home appearance in 12 years.

“Neal always puts on a good show,” Shamek said.

Another hit on Saturday was the a capella group Home Free, who drew enthusiastic response from a swelling crowd during their show. Home Free played prior to Haggard’s sons and band and then headlined the Spirit Mountain Casino Stage in Sankey Park.

“I’ve got to say, I probably had more Facebook comments on the group Home Free than anyone,” Shamek said.

“When they first started, I was watching the crowd,” Shamek said. “A lot didn’t know quite what to think.”

Beat boxer Adam Rupp, who provides all of the percussion for the band, performed a five-plus-minute “drum solo” that brought the house down. Home Free then packed Sankey Park later in the day for an encore performance.

After about the third song, Home Free won the crowd on the Main Stage, said Shamek, who spent a lot of time in the crowd, incognito, talking with patrons. On the small stage, “it was the fullest I’ve ever seen at the park.”

Sunday was a smash.

“Leading up to Toby Keith, we had Old Dominion and Randy Houser,” Shamek said. “They all have No. 1s out, several No. 1s. It was a very steady day.”

Local acts got things going Sunday, with the Lonesome Valley Rounders of Corvallis followed by Trevor Tagle of Sweet Home in his first Main Stage appearance.

“They both have a pretty strong following in this area,” Shamek said.

Tagle recently released a single, “Doin’ Me,” and it’s receiving airplay on KRKT. It is available through iTunes and Amazon.

“That was one of the best feelings I ever had,” Tagle said of walking out on to the Main Stage. “We got on that stage. It was like a zone we got in. The show was great. I feel so good about it, I honestly can say we couldn’t have done better. There’s always room for improvement as time goes on, but for where we were, I could not have asked for a better performance.”

He loved the feedback.

“People were really blown away,” he said. “It was cool to hear (that) from people I don’t even know.”

And that crowd was quick to meet with him afterward.

After the show, it took him awhile to get to the autograph tent. People were lined up there for 20 to 30 minutes in the sun.

“When I got there, all my friends were, ‘what is going on?’” Tagle said. The line was 50 to 60 people deep, and it never got shorter. People kept stacking up.

“If people want to come up and say, ‘Hey, you made my day,’ that’s why I do what I do,” he said.

One of the biggest highlights for Shamek was an announcement that next year’s line-up will include Jason Aldean.

“Almost two hours before Carrie Underwood went on, we got confirmation for Jason Aldean,” Shamek said. The Jamboree had already confirmed Little Big Town. “I really wanted to announce both of them at the same time. That gave us an hour and a half to put together our video.”

Fortunately, the Jamboree had some great media partners, Alpha Media, to get it done, he said.

“We’ve never had Jason Aldean,” he said.

Aldean won the Top Country Album award for “Old Boots, New Dirt” and Top Country Song for “Burnin’ it Down” in the Billboard Music Awards last year. He was nominated for Top Country Artist, and he won the Male Vocalist of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music.

Little Big Town is the winner of the 2016 Academy of Country Music Vocal Group of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year and Crystal Milestone Award. Little Big Town won the Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 2015 for “Girl Crush” and Vocal Group of the Year from the Country Music Association. Little Big Town also won the Grammy Award for the best Country Duo or Group Performance for “Girl Crush.”

Little Big Town appeared at the Jamboree in 2005.

In addition, to the announcements, Shamek was pleased with how well the new T-thrust stage worked and solved a problem for some Jamboree fans. It consisted of a walkway from the main stage to another walkway that runs across the front of the stage.

The Sweet Spot was located this year between the main stage and the wings of the T-thrust.

“I think the majority really appreciated it,” Shamek said. It gave the front row back to the front row.”

The Sweet Spot, a premium area directly in front of the stage, caused problems for some VIP patrons in the front rows as they had to look over standing crowd members between the front row and the stage in recent years.

“I think it made the reserve area really excited to have artists in front again,” Shamek said.

The new bingo tent was a big hit too, he said. The first game had four participants, but then the air-conditioned tent really got going. A number of bingo games sold out.

“People loved it,” he said.

Fans with whom The New Era spoke said they had a good time overall.

Sharon Van Kilsdonk and her daughter Colby Herman, both of Lebanon, were in the line to get autographs from Tagle Sunday afternoon with family friend Lillie Brennen, 6.

They said Carrie Underwood was a big draw for them.

“That was the one who made us want to come in the first place,” Herman said, but she added that the rest of the festival had been enjoyable.

“This is well put-together. We haven’t been to the Bi-Mart one, but we’ve heard this one is a little better organized,” Herman said.

Van Kilsdonkx noted that Lillie made it on the “Jumbo-Tron” screen after they got to try out the Sweet Spot during Tagle’s performance.

”We lucked out,” Herman said. “(Lillie) was right next to the camera.

“I know one of the guys in (Tagle’s) band. It’s nice to see local people get a chance.”

Jim and Cindi Krauger of Bend were celebrating 21 years of marriage at the festival with tickets that Cindi gave Jim for Christmas.

“We love it,” Jim said. “We’ve been Toby Keith fans since a few years ago. We like Randy Houser.”

They also liked the Jamboree.

“It’s great,” Jim said. “Sweet Home has done a fantastic job.”

More than 800 volunteers helped run the Jamboree, Shamek said. “I’ll tell you what, I was a volunteer. It’s how I started. They mean the world to me. That’s where I started from. Some are like family to me now. You only see them once a year. It’s like a family reunion.”

Festival organizers gave out 10-year, 15-year and 20-year pins Sunday afternoon, he said. Next year will be the event’s 25th birthday.

“I’m really looking forward to handing those pins out that say ‘25.’ It’ll be really neat to have that.”

Speaking of the 25th anniversary, he said, “I’ve got some pretty fun stuff up my sleeve. It’ll be a fun year.”

This year’s event had few glitches inside or out, relatively speaking.

Management meetings were shorter than usual each day, Shamek said.

And neither the police nor firefighters and medics were as busy as they have been in some previous years.

Police Chief Jeff Lynn hadn’t had a chance to tabulate numbers on Monday, as The New Era went to press, but the “level of calls and the severity were down. We’re very pleased with how the weekend went.”

The police had substantially fewer calls generated inside the Jamboree, he said. “We really didn’t have anything to do inside.”

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District was busiest on Friday, when temperatures soared into the 90s and there was little breeze. SHFAD had 16 medical calls that day, said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. Firefighters also responded to two grass fires that day. Both were small and easily extinguished.

Medics were busy inside the event helping people deal with problems from the heat, Barringer said. Most of them had other health issues that made them more susceptible to the heat.

The district responded to six calls on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. That counts medical calls inside and outside the Jamboree.

An average day for the district is 7.5 calls per day, but that number can swing, Barringer said. SHFAD has had as many as 24 calls in a single day, and that wasn’t during the Jamboree.

It all added up to a pretty good time.

Linda Wooton, of Lebanon, was waiting in the Sweet Spot for Old Dominion Sunday.

She said it was her first year at the Jamboree.

“They’re doing great job,” she said. “Carrie Underwood was wonderful. This is our first festival, though we’ve been to concerts in Seattle.

LOCAL BOY Trevor Tagle performs Sunday in his first appearance on the Oregon Jamboree Main Stage.

At the Jamboree Promo Booth, around the corner from the Main Stage, Kamron Cotton, 5, of Kennewick, Wash., was posing with a cutout face of Carrie Underwood while hr mom, Heather Cotton and booth staffer Logan Burt of Lebanon took photos. She’d had a big weekend at her first country music festival, getting on stage with Chase Bryant on Friday evening to sing “Shut Up and Dance With Me” – she knew all the words.

Heather Cotton said she’s attended concerts in The Gorge Amphitheatre. “which is the closest you get to any type of festival” in her area and found them to be too much of a party atmosphere for young children.

“This is family-friendly,” she said, noting that she’d checked the Jamboree out last year. This year’s trip was a birthday present for Kamron, said said.

“It’s definitely worth it. We’ll keep coming back as long as we can.”


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