Country stars coming to Freeborn County Fair

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ALBERT LEA — Mower County residents don’t have to travel far to get a sneak peak of the new midway at the county fair.

The Freeborn Fair starts today and runs through Aug. 3, with Goldstar Amusements replacing Merriam’s Midway at the fair, just as it will in Mower County.

Freeborn County Fair board member Larry Irvine said Goldstar Amusement has a good reputation in the industry and has been considered by the fair board for several years.

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“We will have more quality rides that serve the public in a much more clean manner,” Irvine said.

Goldstar has what is called a passport pass that people can buy for $45, giving them access to any ride they choose on any day of the fair. There will also be daily armbands available for sale.

In addition to new rides, fair manager Norm Fredin said the fair board is bringing back the Elephant Encounters show and the Swifty Pig races.

Historical acts coming to the fair include a man who makes bowls, candlemakers and even some jugglers.

New this year in the Fairlane Building will be a hypnotist, who will perform Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday will be Senior Citizen Day and Saturday will be Kids Day, and the fair will end with the demolition derby on Sunday.

This will be the first year credit cards will be accepted at the gate. General admission is $9 for children over 10, which includes entrance to Grandstand shows. A passport can cover the entry fee.

Nightly Grandstand shows will begin at 8:30 p.m., featuring Eric Paslay, Craig Campbell, Thomas Rhett, Montgomery Gentry and Terri Clark.

July 29: Eric Paslay

It all started for country music sing-songwriter Paslay when he began playing guitar and writing songs at 15.

By the time he was 16, he already made a CD on his home computer of about 10 or 11 songs that he played around Texas.

Now, Paslay creates music that becomes part of the soundtrack of people’s lives.

Country music star Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which Paslay wrote with Dylan Altman and Terry Sawchuk, was named ASCAP’s 2012 Country Song of the Year. The Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” written by Paslay and Will Hoge, was nominated for a 2013 Grammy for Best Country Song and CMA Song Of The Year in 2012. He also co-wrote Love and Theft’s No. 1 hit “Angel Eyes,” as well as Rascal Flatt’s new single “Rewind.” He has also penned tunes for many other artists, among them Amy Grant, Donny & Marie Osmond and Lady Antebellum. His voice has also earned him substantial fans. Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers have sought him out to record duets, and Amy Grant recruited Paslay to join her and Sheryl Crow when she covered Paslay’s “Deep As It Is Wide” on her latest album.

Though he appreciates his cuts by other artists, Paslay said the reason he began writing songs is because he wanted to sing for people.

“I turn it on when I get on stage. I love to entertain,” he said.

July 30: Craig Campbell

Known for being impeccably well-tailored onstage, Campbell, a Georgia native, is often described as a Southern gentleman.

His new CD, “Never Regret,” is a 12-song set that solidifies his standing as a neo-traditionalist, a niche he carved out with his critically-acclaimed, self-titled 2011 debut album.

Among the albums Campbell wants to be compared to are Clint Black’s “Killin’ Time,” and Tracy Lawrence’s “Sticks And Stones,” plus “Here In The Real World,” the debut album by another singer/songwriter Campbell is frequently compared to: Alan Jackson.

“That’s what I absolutely love,” Campbell said. “But I need to put my own unique stamp on it. So the challenge for me back when I first signed my deal with Bigger Picture Group was how do I do that? How do I show my love for that style of music, but make it my own? I believe that’s exactly what we’ve done here.”

Prior to landing his record deal, Campbell spent time on the road playing keyboards in the bands of Tracy Byrd and then Luke Bryan.

As the star of the show, he’s gotten so at ease onstage that he’s taken to stepping away from his guitar or piano and just working the stage while he sings.

“That’s what the audience wants to see, so I challenged myself, and I’m getting more comfortable with it,” he said. “It’s easier to do during a hit song that everybody’s raising cain to.”

July 31: Thomas Rhett

Up-and-coming country music artist Thomas Rhett, the son of Rhett Akins, released his debut album “It Goes Like This” last October after what was an almost two-year delay.

Rhett said the album is diverse, offering a little bit of something for everybody.

“For the older fans that have been with me since day one, they’re going to love hearing some stuff that I’ve played a lot live that’s never been recorded,” Rhett said. “For some of the newer fans, there’s stuff that I’m more into now.

The album has everything from straight-ahead country songs such as “Sorry for Partyin’” to rock ’n’ roll to hip hop and even some dance sounds on “Make Me Wanna” and “Call Me Up.”

Rhett, who cites Luke Bryan as an influence in his unpredictable musicality, is striving to reach a point where fans aren’t surprised by anything he does.

“I want my brand to be where people are not shocked when I do certain things,” he said. “I want people to go, ‘I knew Thomas Rhett would do that because he likes to extend and go past the boundaries,’”

He said he grew up listening to many genres that when he sits down to write a song, it’s hard for him to stick to one genre.

“I’m definitely country-based, country lyric, from the South, grew up very country, but I’ve always loved so many different kinds of music that all through the record there are a lot of different things going on,” he said.

Aug. 1: Montgomery Gentry

With a new album, a new label and a renewed sense of musical purpose, Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry are poised to stake their claim as one of country music’s all-time greatest duos.

The two Kentucky boys first busted into the national scene in 1999 with the defiant “Hillbilly Shoes.”

The duo’s new collection, the aptly titled “Rebels on the Run,” brings Montgomery Gentry fans back to the beginning, but with a fresh attitude.