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Country icon Kenny Rogers to open Corn Palace Festival

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This year's Corn Palace Festival, which begins tonight, offers something for most tastes, with an emphasis on country music.

Country legend Kenny Rogers opens this year's entertainment lineup at 7 p.m. with a sold-out concert.

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Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said Rogers has created a wide range of music over the years, earning him legions of fans.

"It's just a legendary name. There's no one with more name recognition than him," Schilling said. "People have grown up with his music."

An icon in the country music industry, Rogers continues to tour and make music since his initial success as a rock singer in the 1960s.

He turned to country music in the late 1970s and became an international superstar.

Among Rogers' countless hits are "The Gambler," "Lady" and "She Believes in Me."

Rogers' concert sold out two weeks ago, but Schilling said there's a possibility of a few tickets being released today.

Joining Rogers on the stage is country music duo Joey+Rory. The two are best known for their hit "Cheater, Cheater."

Contemporary country musician Gary Allan performs at 8:30 .m. Friday. Allan made his debut in 1993 with the hit "Her Man." Allan's known for other hit singles that include "Right Where I Need to Be," "Nothin' on but the Radio,"

"Watching Airplanes" "Get Off on the Pain," and "Today."

Tickets sales have reached almost 2,000, and Schilling expects to sell 2,400 to 2,500 by the end of the week.

Allan's sound is unique, Schilling said.

"There are so many (artists) that sound exactly alike. With Gary Allan, there's such a distinctive sound," he said. "People have name recognition and they know what his songs are about."

With an impressive list of successful songs, Schilling said once Allan starts singing, spectators will hear hit after hit.

With Allan and Rogers, Schilling said he believes this year's lineup is stronger than in years past.

"We're always looking for something a little different. We're not WeFest where we're strictly country or like Dakota Rock Fest. We like to mix it up a little bit and get a variety," he said.

That's where comedian Dick Hardwick and illusionist Jason Latimer come in. Schilling said David Copperfield has referred to Latimer, 27, a Southern Californian, as one the best illusionists of today.

"That gives him a lot of clout," Schilling said.

Latimer's high-energy and high-tech light show is something unique for the Corn Palace, he said.

Hardwick, of Hollywood, Calif., has performed throughout the country and was a comedic champion on the hit show "Star Search."

He's also been featured with top acts Gladys Knight and Ray Charles. Hardwick is also a talented musician who plays the drums, guitar and the washboard, among other instruments.

Latimer and Hardwick have sold about 500 tickets so far. They perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, with Hardwick opening the show. Bjorn Again, a tribute band of the Swedish pop group ABBA, performs at 7 p.m. Saturday. Schilling said Bjorn Again provides a classic rock show and even a bit of a light parody.

Fans of the 1970s and '80s group, however, will still hear the catchy tunes "Dancing Queen," "Honey, Honey" and "Mamma Mia."

"No one has seen ABBA for many, many years; they don't tour, so this is a fun, high-energy and inexpensive show," Schilling said. Tickets are $20 to see and hear the sounds of ABBA.

American folk duo Everly, along with modern rock group Enation, close out the 2010 Corn Palace Festival with a 5 p.m. Sunday performance. Tickets are $20. Schilling said ticket sales have been slower for this show, sitting at about 300 now, but the fan base is widespread, with tickets purchased from fans in Kansas, Texas, Colorado and even Australia.

"With Everly, it's something brand new," Schilling said. "We probably won't see the effect of this concert for two or three years down the road. People will refer to how they played their first big show at the Corn Palace."

Everly, comprised of friends Bethany Joy Galeotti and Amber Sweeney, perform hits that include "Quicksand," "Maybe" and "Flying Machine."

Most Everly fans are familiar with Galeotti as Haley James Scott from the CW's hit television series "One Tree Hill." On the show, Galeotti plays a musician and Everly's songs have been performed for the show.

Tickets can be purchased up to showtime. To order tickets, stop by the Corn Palace Box Office at 604 N. Main St. or call at 1-605-995-8430 or 1-800-289-7469.

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