HEMPSTEAD, Texas – When it comes to entertainment, southeast Texas is somewhat of a hotbed for talent.
The Waller County Fair Association has long realized the importance of live music, which is why there are dozens of hours of it for fairgoers to enjoy during this year’s Waller County Fair and Rodeo, planned for Friday, Sept. 27, to Saturday, Oct. 6, at the fairgrounds in Hempstead.
In all, 10 acts will perform, starting with the kickoff concert series on Saturday, Sept. 29, that features Cody Wayne at 7:30 p.m., followed by Gene Watson at 9:30 p.m. and Kyle Park at 11:30 p.m.
Watson released his first top 10 hit in 1975 and had more than 20 over his established career. Now in his 70s, “The Singer’s Singer” is still showcasing a talent that has much acclaim. That classic country sound is what drew Park to the game, and he picked up a guitar for the first time at age 14. In his time making music, Park has had seven No. 1 songs on the Texas Regional Radio Report.
“Being an older act, we did match Gene Watson up well on that Saturday night,” said Toya Talbott, chairwoman of the entertainment committee. “By having him earlier, that allows our older folks who would really enjoy his music to enjoy their evening at the fair, then we have Kyle Park following for the younger people.”
It’s a great way to kick off so many fantastic things happening over the nine-day fair, but it’s only the beginning. On Thursday, Oct. 3, Jeff Woolsey will be playing at 8 p.m., while local act Hayden Baker of Katy, Texas, will open the festivities for Friday, Oct. 4, performing at 7 p.m.
“He’s been coming on like gangbusters,” said Matt Hyatt, the fair board’s president. “We’re excited to have him here.”
He will be followed at 8:30 p.m. by Tanner Fenoglio, a Texas-based artist, and at 10:30 p.m. by Jason Boland and The Stragglers, a Texas Country/Red Dirt Country band that has been a big name in that genre for nearly two decades.
“We’ve always just wanted to entertain ourselves and put out music that would be a part of people’s lives, not just something passing to them,” Boland said in a statement on the band’s website. “We want to be something more monolithic.
“We’re just a social experiment at this point.”
That is why that type of music has remained popular, especially in southeast Texas.
“When you combine a Texas act like Tanner Fenoglio with a well-known Texas Country group, I think we’re going to have a great chance to reach our young people and people who really like that type of music,” Talbott said. “It sets up our final weekend well.”
The final evening of the fair will be highlighted by the legendary group Restless Heart, which was established 35 years ago and has had six No. 1 songs to its repertoire. What’s more is the band has had 25 songs on the charts over the years.
The evening kicks off with an 8 p.m. show featuring Kris Jones, best known as the father who was videoed by his daughter in a parking lot as Jones belted out Chris Stapleton’s hit-making version of “Tennessee Whiskey.”
Jones will be followed by Jarrod Birmingham at 9:30 p.m. He was raised in south Texas and is a former professional bull rider, so he’s a natural fit to perform at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.
“I never really quit riding bulls,” Birmingham said in a release. “The music just sort of took over, but what you see is what you get with me, and that’s how I want to come across through my music.”
Restless Heart will then close the fair during its show beginning at 11:30 p.m.
“They will be the last show of this year’s fair, and I think their music will touch many of our fairgoers,” Talbott said. “I’m excited to have them coming to Waller County. I think that final night will be something that will excite many people here.”