Fair board focusing on concert but not forgetting value of other events

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‘Breaking Grass’ to open for Easton Corbin

By J. Lynn West
Members of the Union County Fair Association met with event coordinators and vendors this past Tuesday evening to outline changes coming to the fair this year.
The planning focus is the scheduled concert July 16 by Easton Corbin. Corbin has been gaining popularity through social media and his most recent song, “All Over the Road” was expected to move into the top 10 GAC video chart by the concert date.
“This is going to be a bid deal,” entertainment chairman Ann Gray said. Fair Board President Larry Chism agreed, saying, “We are taking a big step.”
The cost for this one act is expected to be several times the amount of receipts brought in during previous fairs and Extension Director Stanley Wise said their goal is to sell 4,000 tickets. About 400 seats will be available at $35 each, in about 10 rows in front of the stage. These are expected to sell out well before the event. The other tickets will be either for seats in the grandstand or standing room space and will cost $20 in advance and $25 at the gate.
Wise said the discounted tickets will be available right up to the minute the gates open that Tuesday afternoon.
A ticket will gain admission to the concert and to the carnival – the only two activities that night – although the carnival is expected to be open later than usual that night.
A meet and greet with Corbin will be held for sponsors and prize-winners before the concert and a fan club meet and greet will be held after the carnival, with the opportunity for anyone who wishes to join Corbin’s fan club that night.
The opening act for Corbin will be “Breaking Grass.”
Breaking Grass is doing exactly what their name implies, according to their promotional material. Although not quite traditional, the music the Northeast Mississippi band presents is without a doubt steeped in the timeless genre they grew up listening to. Comprised of Cody Farrar on guitar; Tyler White on fiddle; Thelton Vanderford on banjo; Zach Wooten on mandolin; and Britt Sheffield on bass; this relatively new band formed with one goal in mind – to make music that all ages could enjoy. They are well on their way to becoming a household name and recently won the B.O.R.N. (Band On The Rise Nationally) award in June 2012.
In 2011, Breaking Grass saw a string of wins at many of the Southeast’s top music festivals including first place at the State of Mississippi Bluegrass Band Championship in New Albany, first place in the Athens Old Time Fiddler’s Bluegrass Band Competition in Alabama and first place in the Uncle Dave Macon Days Bluegrass Band Competition in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This was also the year Breaking Grass released their self-titled, debut album of all original music to a standing room only crowd at a CD release event presented by the City of Booneville. This was followed up by their next project, Running With the Moon.
“Breaking Grass” will begin performing at 7:15 and Corbin will begin at 8:30.
“This is a big risk,” Wise reiterated. “It is costing a lot of money and we hope it will be a bigger night than we have ever had.” He said the rodeo has typically drawn the biggest crowds in the past, up to 2,000 or 2,500.
“This could go twice that big,” he said.
Wise conceded parking will be a problem, although the fair board has property to the east that could be used. He said the arena area will be secured and urged vendors to have their supplies brought in and vehicles moved by 4:30.
“The concert is not the only thing,” Wise told the volunteers. “All of you have important individual events and we could not do this without your helping make this the biggest and best little county fair in North Mississippi.”
Wise noted that the admission cost for the rodeo is up slightly this year, to $8 for adults and $4 for children. “But it is always good,” he said.
The rodeo will again be early in the fair rather than closing it, before the carnival is set up and organizers said some like it this way because the animals do better without distraction from lights and noise.
He also said that organizers are still getting used to moving the fair to July. “It’s gonna’ be hot; we can’t do anything about that,” Wise said.
In response to changes in local and state law, Wise responded that no firearms will be allowed on fairgrounds property, and no alcohol will be allowed on the county-owned property either.
One major benefit is that the Union County Fair will not be in completion with any nearby fairs as it has in the past.”We are not in competition with Pontotoc this year,” he said.
For now, the board is focusing on ticket sales for the Corbin concert and Wise again expressed thanks to the two major sponsors who he said made this possible: Riverside Traffic Systems and Riddle Heating and Air.
Organizers are nervous but confident. “$20 for a concert, plus the carnival? You can’t beat it,” Chism said.
And Wise again emphasized how success the work of event coordinators has been and continues to be. “You all do a wonderful job; all the events are well-attended,” Wise said.