First published on http://www.dispatch.com/
In 2011, when he began pursuing country acts for the Downtown concert venue Bluestone, booking agent Hank Straty discovered a largely untapped country-music market in central Ohio.
Within two years, the Pickerington resident would organize Country Jam at Legend Valley, drawing more than 13,000 fans to the first country-music festival at the Buckeye Lake site in at least 40 years.
This spring and summer, Straty will double the pleasure of the genre’s fans — by reprising Country Jam in June and, two months later, introducing Woodystock, a second two-day country affair at Legend Valley.
The events represent just two of a half-dozen multiday country festivals set to play out in the next three months in the Buckeye State — all within about a two-hour drive from Columbus.
And the trend extends beyond Ohio, said Jessica Boudevin, who covers the business of country music for Venues Today, a live-entertainment trade publication.
“We’re seeing more country festivals nationally than ever before,” Boudevin said.
The proliferation of country festivals, she and other observers say, stems from the surging popularity of the music — now the No. 1 genre in the United States, according to the research firm NPD Group.
Underscoring the point are a number of popular album releases in the past year or so.
The most successful, Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party, made its debut 10 months ago at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart and has become the top-selling album by a male country artist since 2004, when Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying was released.
In January, the single Cruise from country duo Florida Georgia Line became country’s all-time best-selling digital song, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which began tracking such statistics in 2003.