Country Concert has always been about making memories.
For 33 years, thousands upon thousands of music fans have descended upon the small town of Fort Loramie in Shelby County, Ohio, for a weekend of music at the Hickory Hill Lakes campground.
This year, the event will take place on July 10-12, and once again, families and friends will gather to make personal and musical memories.
It’s always entertaining to hear stories from locals about finding partygoers passed out in their yards, or, in one case, in their boat. Or see the preschoolers setting up their lemonade stands as fans stream into town.
Musically, I’ll never forget Neal McCoy climbing to the roof of the stage and belting out a rap song as his band wondered where he was, or the scenes aboard the legendary Montgomery Gentry party bus after Eddie and Troy’s set, or the patriotism of the crowd when Toby Keith played Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue in the first show following the 9/11 attacks. It’s obviously not his proudest moment, but I also remember Tim McGraw dropping to a knee and singing from a book of lyrics when he forgot the words to Red Ragtop.
Two years ago, Florida Georgia Line, a month before Cruise was officially released, played in the festival’s saloon for campers the day before the actual event opened to the public. This year, they return as the behemoths of country music after selling millions of albums.
“This will be our 34th edition, and we plan on it being our best show yet,” Hickory Hill Lakes president Paul Barhorst said. “We have a great mix of today’s stars, up-and-comers, and classic stars. There’s something for everyone.”
The saloon has been a focal point of the festival and a place where many fans have been able to say, “I saw … when they first started out.” Besides FGL, Justin Moore, Kip Moore, and Tyler Farr played early shows inside the saloon.
This year, a permanent, 90-foot by 120-foot stage has been erected inside the saloon and investments have been made toward improving the lighting and sound systems.
The Cadillac Three, Will Hoge, and Ohio native Clark Manson are some of the up-and-comers fans can check out on the secondary stage.
On Thursday night, Miranda Lambert and Florida Georgia Line will headline the show on the main stage. On Friday, Brantley Gilbert, whose new album, Just As I Am, sold 211,000 during its first week in stores, will close the night. And Saturday, of course, is the night that Luke Bryan takes the stage.
Saturday is also the day that McCoy returns to Fort Loramie for the first time since 2008. Montgomery Gentry will appear before Gilbert on Friday night. A complete schedule and list of entertainers can be found at countryconcert.com.
“We really have become a tradition that people know,” Barhorst said. “It’s like a family reunion. Each year, families and friends return to celebrate with us.”
Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.