Festival opts for more seasoned acts in 2016
By Jeff Gilliland
Country music performers Jana Kramer and Phil Vassar will be the featured entertainers at the 2016 Festival of the Bells in Hillsboro, entertainment chairman Rick Williams announced Wednesday.
Kramer will headline the Friday, July 1 show and Vassar will be the closing act Saturday, July 2.
“Needless to say, these two will probably be a little more known than some of the ones we’ve had here in the past because a lot of the others were a little on the newbie side,” Williams said. “We’re pretty happy with who we have. Both will be big draws. There’s no doubt about that.”
Williams said the opening acts have not been determined.
“We spent a lot of money on these two here, so we may take a look at using some local acts or something like that,” Williams said.
He also said he believes Brian Robinson, who heads a group that brings a Christian act in to open the festival entertainment on Thursday evening, will announce who that is soon.
The Festival of Bells has been a springboard for some of country music’s top performers including Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and many others. Williams said that while Kramer is not as well known as Vassar, they are both more seasoned than some of those others that preceded them at the festival.
“We take a look at about eight names of people we want to look at and then we see who’s available,” Williams said. “It just comes down to who’s available, the money, a bit of everything else, and there we go.”
Kramer’s big hit right now is “I Got the Boy.”
“The radio stations are playing it big time right now, and I mean huge,” Williams said. “It’s unreal how hard they’re playing it.”
It’s a sentimental song the singer-songwriter performed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” about finally moving on and serves as an entry point for a new album, “thirty one” that’s as much personal journey as it is musical expression, her website says.
The 2012 ACM Top New Female Vocalist of the Year, Kramer released her debut album not long before before that. It included the hit single “Why Ya Wanna.”
Last year, Kramer married former NFL player Michael Caussin and the couple recently had their first child. She also played the role of Alex Dupre on the television series “One Tree Hill.”
Williams said Vassar plays a mean piano and will likely appeal to a little older crowd.
His signature songs include 10 No. 1 singles and 26 Top 40 hits, including “Carlene,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six-Pack Summer,” and “That’s When I Love You,” according to his website.
Vassar was racking up hits on the radio long before he began his own recording career that has seen the release of six albums, two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year trophies, ACM’s Top New Male Vocalist and soldout shows across the country. His songwriting career blossomed in the mid 1990s when he penned hits for Collin Raye (“Little Red Rodeo”), Alan Jackson (“Right on the Money”), Tim McGraw (“For a Little While”), Jo Dee Messina (“Bye Bye,” “I’m Alright”), and BlackHawk (“Postmarked Birmingham”), the website says.
He signed a record deal with Arista in 1998 and was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 1999.
The 32nd annual Festival of the Bells will be held June 30 through July 2 in uptown Hillsboro.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.