Fair music blends country with rock
The South Dakota State Fair is going a little less country, and turning to more rock 'n' roll.
"We look for a variety, not too heavy on the country, not too heavy on the new stuff," said Candi Hettinger, marketing and events coordinator at the fair.
The fair chooses its entertainment options from a mix of public input, visits to fair conventions and brainstorming. Fair conventions are held at the state, national and international level, with entertainers and vendors showcased.
"We see people, they email us, and we get recommendations and fit all the pieces of the puzzle together to see how it goes together," Hettinger said.
This year's entertainment variety stretches from the thrill show Pirates of the Sky to an Elvis Presley impersonator and a fiddling group.
The Red Wilk Construction Championship Bull Riding Bull Bash will kick off the grandstand entertainment at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The competition carries over to the next night for the championship bull riding event, which starts at the same time.
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday, with Mary Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives as the group's opener. Stuart is expected to begin performing at 7 p.m. The Gatlin Brothers, popular during the 1970s and '80s, are known for country songs such as "Broken Lady" and "The Lady Takes the Cowboy Every Time."
Saturday night at the grandstand brings the Eli Young Band, known for "Crazy Girl," starting the transition from country to rock performers. The Eli Young Band is a country band with rock influences. The Casey Donahew Band, opening for the Eli Young Band, will open at 7 p.m., with the headliner beginning at approximately 8 p.m.
"Every year, we try to bring in somebody who's doing well in the country world," Hettinger said.
Rock band Three Doors Down will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday. The band, which does not have an opening act, is known for its songs "Kryptonite," "When I'm Gone" and "It's Not My Time."
"We haven't had that kind of [Top 40] entertainment in the Grandstand since 2005," Hettinger said.
In 2005, Blake Shelton opened for Rascal Flatts, and Hoobastank performed later in the week.
Hettinger said 3 Doors Down and the Casey Donahew Band were two bands that were chosen due to public input.
"People said they wanted to be given something newer on the rock side of things," Hettinger said.
Monday, the last night of the fair, ditches musical acts for demolition derbies. The Soccer Ball Demo Derby, featuring cars competing in a soccer game with a 6-foot-tall ball, begins at 1 p.m. and is followed by a traditional demolition derby with monster trucks.
Gwen Sebastian, a country singer from North Dakota, will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Northwestern Energy Freedom Stage. Sebastian was a contestant on "The Voice" and has since toured with country artists such as Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. The singer was spotted by fair officials for the first time at a fair convention two years ago.
Acapella group Six Appeal, performing at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, was also picked at a fair convention.
"They're very, very good," Hettinger said. "We thought they'd be a good fit."
Dakotah Star, a singing competition, will have preliminary rounds for its adult, youth and children's divisions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with finals on Monday. All rounds begin at 5:30 p.m.
Breaking up the musical acts is David Malmberg, a ventriloquist whose performances with his puppet, grouchy farmer Leonard Cribble, led to packed shows at the fair two years ago.
Sherwin Linton and the Cotton Kings, a fair regular, will perform at the Centennial Stage daily at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Following the fair's carnival theme, Bruce Sarafian, a world record juggler, will perform Thursday through Monday at 3:30 at the Midway Roadhouse.