Jugfest is at a turning point.
The annual country music festival – presented by the country station KJUG 106.7 FM and offered free to fans – celebrates its 10th anniversary with its biggest lineup to date and an expected crowd in excess of 22,000. That’s how many festival organizers estimate showed up last year to see Big and Rich, Chase Bryant and Chris Young.
This year, the all-day concert features a pair of headliners in Lee Brice and Billy Currington, plus a half-dozen other country hit-makers and up-and-comers, leaving organizers to ponder the inevitable question, “How does it continue to grow?”
Bill Lynch, the general manager of Momentum Broadcasting, asks the question, knowing that it won’t be answered until well after the rush of this weekend’s show.
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Jugfest has always represented the music played on the station, from the hit-makers like Justin Moore (who played in 2014) and Easton Corbin (2013) to up-and-comers like LANco, who play the festival for the first time this year. It was originally envisioned as a listener appreciation event and bounced between venues as it grew in size. It drew thousands to the Tulare County Fairgrounds, Visalia’s Plaza Park and Twilight Park in Woodlake, before settling at Groppetti Automotive Festival Grounds at Tulare’s International Agri-Center.
The festival had started to draw the attention of fire marshals and “we just needed more room,” Lynch says.
For the 10th anniversary, organizers are bringing back past performers like Lee Brice and Love and Theft. Chris Janson is making a special trip to play Jugfest again. He played the festival in 2013 and “can’t wait to get back here,” says KJUG’s program director Rik McNeil.
“The audience is very invested in the artists, and the artists are grateful for that,” McNeil says.
Here’s the full list of this year’s Jugfest performers:
Lee Brice – The “I Drive Your Truck” singer is known as a craftsman. Before he was winning song of the year awards at the CMAs and ACMs, he was writing tunes for Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks.
Billy Currington – A dozen years after releasing his debut album on Mercury Records, Currington has scored nine No. 1 singles with songs like “Good Directions” and “We Are Tonight.”
Love and Theft – The duo, Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, had a No. 1 hit with the 2012 single “Angel Eyes.” The band’s third album “Whiskey on My Breath” was released last year and showcased a stripped-down, mostly acoustic version of the pair.
Thompson Square – Keifer and Shawna Thompson make up this husband-wife duo, who earned the best vocal duo awards from all the major country music organizations in 2012. They won the ACM award again in 2013. The group’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” was the most-heard song on country radio in 2011, according to Mediabase. It also topped the charts for sales and ringtone downloads and earned the group two Grammy nominations.
Side note: The couple had their first child, Rigney Cooper Thompson, in January.
Chris Janson – A relative newcomer, Janson’s debut “Buy Me a Boat” was released on Warner Bros. Records in October. It was No. 18 on Billboard’s Top 200 charts. Janson also wrote songs for Tim McGraw (“Truck Yeah”) and LoCash (“I Love This Life”).
John Berry – Made a name during the ’90s touring with the likes of Reba McEntire, Aaron Tippin and the Mavericks. His song “Your Love Amazes Me” was No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1994.
Tara Thompson – The cousin of Nashville icon Loretta Lynn, Thompson is an up-and-comer. The singer-songwriter signed with Valory Music last year before landing a spot on CMT’s Next Women of Country Music Tour. A full-length album is expected this year.
Jordan Rager – The 21-year-old was an unsigned artist when he was picked up for an opening gig on Justin Moore’s Off the Beaten Path tour.