The sound of country music will fill the Horseman’s Sports Arena on Saturday night during the inaugural Cornstalk Music Jam. The one-day music festival brings three country music artists to town to perform in the open air venue.

Rodney Atkins will headline the festival with opening acts by Tracy Lawrence and Mark Chesnutt and two local artists, Jimmy Weber and Dayna Jones.

Born Tennessee, Atkins overcame many obstacles at a young age including several failed adoptions and health illnesses. Atkins told The Daily Republic that he found a passion for music at an early age.

“I started playing guitar in high school and shortly after learning a few chords started writing songs,” he said. “My first time in front of an audience was in college.”

In 2006, Atkins charted his first one number single, “If You’re Going Through Hell,” and that same year was named Top New Male Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music awards. Through his music career, Atkins has had six No. 1 singles, with the most recent “Take a Back Road” rising to the top in 2011. Atkins has also released five studio albums, the most recent released in May 2019 named, “Caught Up In The Country.” The 12-song album was six years in the making, with some songs dating back as far as 2013.

“The response has been incredible,” Atkins said. “With ‘Caught Up’ being the first single it’s been exciting to see it having over 100 million streams.”

Making his debut performance in Mitchell, Atkins is excited to perform for the audience that will fill the Horseman’s Sports Arena on Saturday.

“We’ve played all through South Dakota and the hospitality always makes us feel like family,” he said. “I look forward to hearing the folks singing along.”

Opening for Atkins will be musicians Tracy Lawrence and Mark Chesnutt. Lawrence has been in the country music business since 1991 when he recorded his debut album “Sticks and Stones.” Since then the singer has released 14 studio albums and charted over 40 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Song charts. He has won many awards including Top New Male Vocalist from both Billboard in 1992 and the Academy of Country Music in 1993. Recently, Lawrence released a new single titled, “Made in America.” His 15 album titled “Made in America” will be released on Aug. 16.

Chesnutt grew up with music at the core. His father, Bob Chesnutt, was also a singer and listener of classic country music. Chesnutt is known for his classic Country sound and honky-tonk influences. Chesnutt’s debut album was released in 1990. Between 1990 and 2002, Chesnutt has earned 14 No. 1 hits, four platinum albums and five gold records. He won the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award and Vocal Event of the Year in 1993. His latest album, Traditional Lives, was released in 2016.

Creating a new blueprint

The Corn Palace has been busy preparing the Horseman’s Sports Arena for the one-day music festival. As the first Corn Palace event hosted at the rodeo grounds, Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt told the Daily Republic on Wednesday it has been a learning curve.

“It’s different because we have a blueprint for what we do here at the Corn Palace,” Schmidt said. “Nobody has ever done this at the rodeo grounds.”

With the bigger, outdoor venue, Schmidt said the Corn Palace had to bring in additional supplies, equipment and help to build a successful event. The set-up and tear-down process will take three days from start to finish.

With ticket sales sitting at just over 1,000 sold, Schmidt said there is more than enough room for last-minute ticket sales as the capacity of the concert area is 5,000 people.

“With an outdoor show like this, 75 percent of your tickets go out in the 48 hours leading up,” Schmidt said. “People are waiting for the weather.”

The weather on Saturday night should be mostly cloudy with a low of around 65 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Even with 4,000 tickets left unsold, Schmidt is confident the number of concert attendees will rise by the time the first act takes the stage.

“Everybody I talk to in the community and surrounding areas say, ‘I haven’t gotten my tickets yet but we’re coming and I’m so pumped about this,’” said Schmidt. “Being able to bring a different type of event like this to Mitchell is exciting and it's a little nerve-racking leading up to the event.”

Cornstalk Music Jam general admission seated or standing tickets are still available for $58 and can be purchased from the box office on Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon or online at cornpalace.com.

Four ticket booths, two accepting cash and two accepting credit cards, will be stationed at the main gate Saturday night. The Corn Palace advises concert-goers to get their tickets before arriving at the grounds if possible to prevent any backup in the ticket line.

The parking lot for the festival will open at 1 p.m. with the Ethan Trail Riders providing direction. Palace Transit will also be giving rides to the arena. The concert gates are set to open at 3 p.m. with local artists Jimmy Weber and Dayna Jones to kick off the festival at 4 p.m.

“Being able to bring that local talent to a show like this is invaluable,” Schmidt said. “It brings that local draw and that local flair to a show that we’re excited about.”

The other opening acts of Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence will begin at 5:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. respectively with headliner Rodney Atkins taking the stage at 8:30 p.m.

Schmidt said there will be no outside beer or firearms allowed into the concert grounds, but the Lions Club will have four beer stands set up throughout the rodeo grounds.

“The thing we always hear as an Event and Entertainment board is, ‘We want different things to come to town,’” Schmidt said. “You have to commend the Corn Palace Events and Entertainment board for taking a leap of faith on an event like this.”

Schmidt hopes the festival can evolve into a multiple-day event in which people can camp and stay the night on site. For now, Schmidt and the Corn Palace are focused on providing concert-goers a great first open-air concert experience.

“There’s a lot of people who have worked very hard to make this event happen,” Schmidt said. “There would be nothing better than to see a packed house come Saturday night.”