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Published: Saturday, 7/30/2011

New festival attracting big names


Tony Smith of Tiffin builds hot rods.

Elmer Cole of Bloomville runs a trucking business.

Putting on a big-time music festival isn’t exactly natural for them.

But, “we’re the kind of people who are motivated by people telling us we can’t do something,” Smith said, chuckling mischievously.

And lots of people told them they were crazy for trying to organize a country music show when they started talking about it late last year.

Friday night, that far-fetched idea turns into reality when Smokin’ Country Concert kicks off on Cole’s 183-acre farm in Bloomville, which is about 60 miles southeast of Toledo.

Fourteen different acts will play on the 60-foot-by-40-foot stage over the three-day weekend, including Justin Moore, Crystal Bowersox, Randy Houser, Darryl Worley, Tracy Lawrence, Jason Michael Carroll, and Brantley Gilbert. A complete lineup and ticket prices can be found at smokincountryconcert.com.

So you might wonder how exactly two guys in the automotive business went about booking some of the biggest names in the country music business.

“We started looking up booking agents for the artists, called them up, promoted the venue, and exchanged numbers,” Smith said.

In Bowersox’s case, they couldn’t find her booking information online, so they did the next best thing.

“We drove up to Papa’s Tavern in Toledo. [Bowersox’s longtime friend and bassist] Frankie May was playing in a band. We waited until a break and got her contact information,” Smith said.

Bowersox will be playing Friday night at 8, just before Moore.

“Crystal’s people did tell us that she’s bringing her biggest band ever and is going to put on the performance of a lifetime,” Smith said, sounding more like a concert promoter by the minute.

For regular attendees at Country Concert in Fort Loramie, Ohio, this festival will have a similar feel. The camping area will open Thursday, and it promises to be a weekend-long party. No beer coolers will be allowed in the concert area, but beer can be purchased.

“People coming to the first show are going to look back five years from now and say they were there at the beginning. Our goal is to turn this into the best concert facility in Ohio,” Smith said. “We’re looking at getting about 5,000 people. If we get that, we’ll be happy. It’s not about turning a profit the first year. It’s about getting it going,” he said. “I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot easier to make phone calls to people in the business than it was six months ago.”

Yeah, people used to think they were a little crazy. Not anymore.

Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the final Saturday of each month.

Contact him at: bdugger@theblade.com.

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