The biggest changes are the location of the stage and that patrons must enter through one admission section and not two as in the past.
“We’re flipping everything this year,” said Elizabeth Oakley Norris, the festival owner and chief organizer. “The police and other emergency officials have been asking us to do this for some time for safety and other reasons.”
The massive stage will be switched from the east end of the festival site to the west side, closer to the boat ramp.
The food and drink vendors and spectator viewing area will be switched from the west side of the site to the east side, with the vendors in the grassy area near the split-rail fence.
Patrons in the past have been allowed to enter at both the levee opening at Reynolds Street and East Boundary and the opening off Prep Phillips Drive and Broad Street.
This year, however, patrons only will be allowed to enter at the opening off Prep Phillips Drive. The Reynolds and East Boundary opening is being changed to exclusive use by artists, security officers and festival staff.
“We will have more people on this opening to take and sell tickets,” Norris said. “And it really is the same length to walk to the stage area from parking for everyone.”
In the past, artists and others heading for the backstage area have had to work their way slowly through the crowd in order to get in or out of the festival area.
Norris notes the change will put the stage at its original location. The festival began May 4, 1986, as a birthday gift from radio station WGUS in North Augusta as part of the celebrations honoring the city of Augusta’s 250th anniversary.
Admission is less expensive this year, being reduced from $25 to $19 for advance tickets and from $35 to $25 at the gate.
Another big change will be a lot of fresh faces performing for the first time at the festival, including the headliner Florida Georgia Line (Brian Kelley, from Ormond Beach, Fla., and Tyler Hubbard, from Monroe, Ga.).
The duo recently won the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Duo and Top New Artist awards.
Already, the group has scored with two hit singles, Cruise and Get Your Shine On, off their Republic Nashville CD Here’s To The Good Times.
The guys met at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., through each knowing Hubbard’s roommate, who was in a writing class with Kelley.
Other new faces will be:
CASEY JAMES: The guitarist and Texas native was a top-five finalist on the TV show American Idol. His Sony Records CD resulted in his singles Don’t Call It A Night and Crying On a Suitcase. He was in a motorcycle accident at 21 that almost cost him his life. He turns 31 on May 31.
CHRIS JANSON: This singer from Perryville, Mo., has toured Europe with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr. His recent music video is Better I Don’t. He co-wrote Tim McGraw’s 2012 single Truck Yeah and played harmonica on Lee Brice’s album Hard 2 Love.
THE LACS: This country rap and Southern rock duo comes from the south Georgia town of Baxley. It is composed of Clay “Uncle Snap” Sharpe and Brian “Rooster” King. Their name is short for Loud Ass Crackers. They have opened shows most recently for Colt Ford.
Returning this year to A Day in the Country will be:
CAREY MURDOCK: The former North Augusta resident was a crowd favorite when he made his festival debut in 2012.
Murdock turned 25 April 29 and now lives in Nashville. His original proposal song If You Say Yes has received more than 4,000 hits on YouTube.
He will perform for the second time at the famous Bluebird nightclub in Nashville later this month before beginning his second tour of European countries.
JAYCIE WARD: This Beech Island resident has grown up performing in the Augusta area.
She will be back with her amazing voice to open the festival.