Music fans get quite a treat at Lea County Fair

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LOVINGTON, N.M. – The be a true regional exposition, the Lea County Fair Board realizes that variety is a spice of life not always experienced in rural America.

Those who are taking in the 2012 edition of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo will have an array of musical choices through the 10-day affair. Fairgoers have come to expect great things on the main stage in Lovington, and this summer might offer the extravaganza they’ll talk about for years to come.

“I think we have a great lineup,” said Dean Jackson, the fair board’s chairman.

Contemporary Christian group Mercy Me will kick start the after-the-rodeo concerts at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, bringing a lineup of music that has been a hit in mainstream music. It’s all part of the Faith and Family Night at the fair.

“When I started getting the information out about the concerts, people would just look at me and ask me how in the world we got Mercy Me,” Jackson said. “I’ve had lots of people tell me that the Mercy Me concert on Wednesday night is going to rival Eli Young (Band) on Saturday night last year.

“I’ve heard they don’t play outdoor shows. I’m not sure how we got them, but the stars aligned.”

Yes, they did. But it’s that way throughout the 10-day expo, set for Aug. 3-11 at the Lea County Fairgrounds. Red Dirt Music artist Stoney LaRue will perform Thursday, Aug. 9; Uncle Kracker will play Friday, Aug. 10; and country artist Chris Young will close down the festivities Saturday, Aug. 11.

“The first Saturday (Aug. 3), we’ll have a sponsorship event with Easton Corbin,” Jackson said. “We’re really looking forward to that and to giving our sponsors something special.”

Most fairgoers, though, will have the opportunity to see some of the top acts in their respective genres. That’s great news. The better news is that fairgoers can enjoy each concert, other entertainment opportunities, the exhibits and the rodeo for just $6. That’s a tremendous entertainment value.

Take Mercy Me, for example. The group – Bart Millard (vocals), Jim Bryson (keys), Mike Scheuchzer (guitar), Nathan Cochran (bass), Barry Graul (guitar) and Robby Shaffer (drums) – considers its music as ministry. They reached into the mainstream hit “I Can Only Imagine,” which collected several Dove Awards, including the Song of the Year.

LaRue released his first album a decade ago, and since then, he has been one of the elite acts on the Red Dirt scene. His current album, “Velvet,” was released last August and marked the first time in six years he had released a studio album – “The Red Dirt Album” was released in 2005, then LaRue followed with “Live at Billy Bobs” in 2007.

“ ‘Live at Billy Bobs’ was like jumping straight into the fire,” LaRue said. “Two weeks after putting the band together, we recorded the album, hit the road and did 250 dates a year. We never looked back.”

Uncle Kracker gained his fame as the disc jockey in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band, but he started on his own with the 2001 debut of “Double Wide,” which featured the No. 1 hit “Follow Me.” In the years since, he has been a cross-over success. “Smile” was a hit on pop radio, then became his first solo top five hit on country radio. It proved to be one of 2010’s biggest country songs with sales exceeding 2 million.

“When the Sun Goes Down,” Uncle Kracker’s collaboration with Kenny Chesney, became a No. 1 hit.

“I’ve always had a genuine passion for country,” Uncle Kracker said. “I think that audiences appreciate that, and that’s why they’re giving me a chance.”

Audiences are giving Young more than a chance. He’s the American Country Award winner for Breakthrough Artist of the Year – his “Voices” also won the ACA’s Single of the Year. Of course, it helps that Young has had five songs hit No. 1.

“Music is why I’m here, and it’s something I can’t live without,” Young said. “It’s what I’m built to do.”

It’s that kind of musical lineup that is reaching fans all across the region to Lovington and why the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is easily becoming a great place to be in August.


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