Thousands of die-hard country music fans will be heading to the Augusta Riverfront Marina for the 27th annual A Day in the Country outdoor music festival.
Gates open at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 6, with the music starting at noon.
Over the past nearly three decades, the festival has become one of this area’s largest and best music events with shirtless guys and scantily clad women enjoying the warm rays of spring sun.
Lawn chairs and blankets are the seating of choice of most attendees while hundreds of others prefer to stand the several hours of the festival and mingle with the fun-loving crowd.
No coolers are allowed and no re-entry is permitted so don’t plan on taking breaks to your vehicle for beverages or food. Plenty of both are sold on the grounds.
Tickets cost $25 in advance or $35 at the gate from (803) 278-4849 or www.tixonline.com.
The first A Day in the Country music spectacular began on May 4, 1986, as a birthday gift from radio station WGUS in North Augusta as part of celebrations honoring the city of Augusta’s 250th anniversary.
That first lineup included Nashville stars Mel McDaniel, T. Graham Brown, Freddy Weller, Narvel Felts, Dickey Lee and Robin Lee and local popular band Southern Comfort.
Ever since then, local acts have been included in the annual star-filled lineup.
Working with that first festival was local music promoter Elizabeth Oakley Norris, who eventually became the festival’s owner and chief honcho. She also is known widely as the owner/operator of the Anything Goes gift shop on West Avenue in North Augusta and of the tixonline.com Web site for online selling of concert tickets of many area events.
Additionally she is known for her public relations promotions of many community endeavors including The Augusta Futurity.
This year’s A Day in the Country festival especially will be memorable as it marks the return of country music superstar Tracy Lawrence.
He has been back in the area performing in recent years including the 2009 Hot Summer Night festival, but he has not been back on the A Day in the Country bill since his appearance at the seventh festival in 1992.
Technically, the Augusta Riverfront Marina is not in the country, but rather in the city limits just a few blocks from downtown Augusta. Cars in fact back up parking all along Reynolds Street from the marina to under the Gordon Highway bridge.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t matter to the thousands of country music-loving fans who have turned the A Day in the Country festival into their own annual spring rite and who don’t usually leave until the last song is sung and the last note is played.
Here is a brief look at this year’s performers:
TRACY LAWRENCE: He’s a native of Atlanta, but he’s not a Georgian. He hails from Atlanta, Texas, with his long list of hit singles including eight that reached No. 1: Sticks and Stones (1991), Alibis, Can’t Break It to My Heart and My Second Home (all 1993), If the Good Die Young (1994), Texas Tornado (1995), Time Marches On (1996) and Find Out Who Your Friends Are (2006). The last one was recorded with his own longtime friends Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.
JERROD NIEMANN: This smooth-voiced Kansas singer is known especially for his No. 1 hit single Lover, Lover and his emotionally-wrought ballad What Do You Want From Me? He’s become very popular with local fans through appearances at Coyotes, The Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon and the 2011 WKXC-FM Guitar Pull. He first learned to play the piano and began writing songs. He moved to the guitar when his mother won a guitar autographed by Tracy Lawrence in a contest.
ASHTON SHEPHERD: New to country fans, Shepherd’s songs reflect her growing up years on her family’s farm in the tiny community of Leroy, Ala., 60 miles north of Mobile. She, in fact, still likes to sell vegetables from the back of a pickup truck. Her 2008 album Sounds So Good really impressed critics with The Washington Post naming it one of the best albums of 2008 of all genres. The Wall Street Journal described her as “a potential Loretta Lynn for a new generation.” Entertainment Weekly said the album “is the best mainstream country debut since Taylor Swift’s.”
CAREY MURDOCK & NOSTAR: Since moving to Nashville in the fall of last year, this North Augusta-reared artist has been gaining widespread attention from the town’s top songwriters and singers. His original proposal song If You Say Yes has received nearly 2,000 hits on YouTube. He first became known in the the Augusta area through his band NoStar but has expanded his fan base through touring in far-off western states and throughout the eastern coast from New England to Florida. He is making his European debut at a songwriter’s festival in Sweden this summer.
BRANTLEY: These two brothers, David and Scott Brantley from East Dublin, Ga., are making their first A Day in the Country appearance. The brothers also are the basis for the popular country rock band Deepstep. David says of their team work, “Scott and I have such similar tastes in music, yet we each bring something different to the table whether it be in personality, character, stability or musicality. And, it’s different every day! Our blend of music is in the purest, most natural form.”
THE JEREMY GRAHAM BAND: Voted Augusta’s best country music band in 2011 by the readers of Augusta magazine, this popular group has been rocking fans from Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium to American soldiers stationed in Japan. They last performed on the A Day in the Country festival in 2008.