The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jan. 28, 2022

Charlie Daniels Band at the fair

It’s been a few years since the Van Wert County Fair has presented a headliner band. James Otto a few years ago was barely an opening act. The low turnout for that show and the prior main event, the Edgar Winter Group, foretold a possible end to the fair’s ability to produce the big name.

But the Charlie Daniels Band concert on Tuesday, September 1, is the return of the big name to the fair. And with freebies and amenities galore.

By County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum
By County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum

Admission for the grandstand is only $25 and there are still plenty of seats available. That price would be a great deal even if all of the things I’m about to say weren’t also true. First, the concert is being held on the evening before the fair officially opens, so parking and admission to the fairgrounds are free. No hidden fees.

But wait, there’s more!

How many concerts of this caliber allow you to bring your own refreshments? Normally, the producers of such a show are trying to make as much profit from the sale of concessions as from tickets. For this show, you are allowed to bring your own cooler. It is entirely up to you what you put in that cooler.

But wait, there’s still more!

Local favorite Nashville Crush will be the opening act. Normally, these guys alone could sell out a venue where you could bring your own refreshments at $25 a ticket. But even further, if you do want to purchase some fair fare, most of the food vendors will be open that night. You can take a break from the music to walk about and get an elephant ear or a sausage sandwich or even some fried cheese (heart attack optional).

All of this before Charlie Daniels, a bona fide music legend, takes the stage. Daniels was creating a pop country sound before Garth Brooks ever heard a steel guitar. In the Sixties, he co-wrote a song recorded by Elvis and played bass on three Bob Dylan albums. He broke in his fiddle backing The Marshall Tucker Band and Hank Williams Jr. before busting out on his own. He also appeared in one of the top 10 movies about mechanical bull riding ever made, Urban Cowboy.

Of course, he will always be identified by one mega-hit: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” His legend suffers a bit from his music being before its time — because it lacks a genre, it is rarely played on classic rock or country stations. But Daniels wasn’t a one-hit wonder. If you listened to the radio in the Seventies and early Eighties, you know “In America”, “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and the theme song from the movie Stroker Ace (probably twice as many people know that song as ever saw that silly Burt Reynolds vehicle).

Other songs one might YouTube to assess their Daniels familiarity include “The South’s Gonna Do it Again”, “Uneasy Rider”, “Every Time I See Him” and “Long-Haired Country Boy.”

The presentation of The Charlie Daniels Band was a combined effort of the Fair Board and the County Economic Development Office. Having lost money on many of the prior productions, the fair was rightly cautious to put up for a big act again on its own. But there needs to be events like these for our community’s long-term viability and that’s where our county ED became interested and sought private investment to assume much of the risk. How many county events appeal to both our heavily populated demographic — people over 50 — and our most frighteningly underpopulated demographic — people aged 20 to 40?

Profit is a secondary concern and this is the reason for the cheap tickets and all of the perks. A successful show this year could lead to something more next year. Most of the investors understand there is a greater risk of loss than likelihood of reward, but they are people who believe in the need for the viability of the fair and events like this.

We spent several months choosing the act. One of the first criteria for me was that you had to have a band that had the name of the singer in it. For example, if you talk about Journey or Styx, you’re talking about bands that lack their lead singer or one of their lead singers. Fans of the band know who’s still in it and no one turns out to hear the original drummer. This concern proved prescient when a lead singer from one of our finalists, Three Dog Night, died a few months after our ultimate decision.

Cost, of course, was an issue. Tom Petty and Bob Seger are still in the $300,000 per show range and neither the fair nor our investors are in a position to take that kind of leap. Those tickets would necessarily cost closer to $100. George Thorogood and Joan Jett were in the right cost range, but, as it was explained to us, aging rock acts have eclectic crowds. There are so many different subsets of rock that there is no guarantee that any of them will sell in any region of the country, which is where the Edgar Winter Group may have ran into some trouble.

Charlie Daniels, however, draws from larger pools. He had no trouble filling the Niswonger PAC a few years ago and, by all accounts, that was a great show. To reintroduce the big name, there was really no other choice once he was introduced for consideration.

If you are over 40, you will remember this music. If you are under 40, you are in for a treat and you have something affordable to do on a date or a place to introduce your kids to a big-time music show that oozes Americana. Most of all, this is a community opportunity, a chance to come out together en masse for an event like we all used to do.

Did I mention tickets are only $25?

POSTED: 08/24/15 at 6:47 am. FILED UNDER: Opinions