This year marks a series of big events in country singer Scotty McCreery’s life. He married his longtime sweetheart, Gabi, had his first number one hit with Five More Minutes and appeared with his family on Celebrity Family Feud, winning the game. And, on October 7, he will perform on The Main Stage – Presented by Farm Bureau at the State Fair of Virginia, something he’s looking forward to.
Born and raised in North Carolina, McCreery plays a “bunch of state and country fairs,” he says. “It’s always cool to have a lot of people from around the state. I feel like fair people are my people.”
McCreery joins a lively list of entertainers that include country singers Craig Campbell, Dylan Scott, Trent Harmon, and Chris Lane, as well as gospel singer and seven-time Grammy nominee Natalie Grant and in The Crooked Road showcase Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Marlene Jolliffe, executive director for the State Fair of Virginia, and her team start working on the entertainment for the fair a year ahead. “It’s always ongoing,” she says. “Within a month after the fair we define what worked the best and what didn’t work at all.”
The team also looks at other entertainment venues in the area and the talent appearing in the area. “We rely on guest responses as to what they want to see,” Jolliffe says. “Last year we tried a partnership with The Crooked Road and it worked beautifully. Our fair audience tends to shift toward country and Americana music.”
The number one priority for every performance is to provide a solid production with a professional stage and a top-notch sound company. “That’s the key to making an artist happy and we have that in place,” Jolliffe says. “Our biggest challenge is finding acts that are not playing in the market and that fit the fair.”
Although he’s never been to the State Fair of Virginia before, McCreery has fond memories of the North Carolina State Fair. “The State Fair was a huge thing for me,” he says. “We go every year. Fairs remind me of my family and friends . . . of where I come from.”
After winning American Idol in 2011, McCreery barreled onto the country music scene. He recently released his latest album Seasons Change, his fourth consecutive album to debut at number one on a Billboard album chart. He co-wrote all the songs on the new album, a first for him.
One of the songs from the album, This Is It, was inspired by his proposal to Gabi. The music video features footage from their wedding. “For me I am just happy to talk about marriage and sing about it, share what is going on in my life. I wrote the song to sing it at the wedding. I wrote it for me,” he says. “When the label heard it they said this is the one we need to put it out as a single.”
His strategy for the fair: play some past singles that people know along with tracks from Seasons Change. “We’ll also an oldies medley with songs from Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, etc. We’re excited to play at the fair,” says McCreery who will turn 25 the day after his performance.
Ralph Stanley II is also eager to take the stage at the fair. “Anytime we get to play in the great state of Virginia I look forward to it,” says Stanley who is from Southwest Virginia. “We have a lot of great fans that come out to our show. They make our job easier. I like to go to the record table and shake hands, talk to the folks. I look forward to the whole aspect.”
As part of The Crooked Road showcase, Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will showcase traditional Virginia music. Stanley started traveling with his dad, Ralph Stanley Sr., when he was just two years old. He became lead singer of the group in 1995.
Stanley has two Grammy nominations for previous albums and won a Grammy with his father for Lost in the Lonesome Pines. Stanley’s father passed away in 2016 and one of his final requests was for his son to continue with The Clinch Mountain Boys. “I am honored he wanted me to do that,” Stanley says.
The entertainment lineup at the fair isn’t just limited to music. Look for a variety of acts that include the Famous Rosaire’s Racing Pigs and the FMX Bike Show.
This year also features the Firefighter Combat Challenge taking place Sept. 28 and 29. The event showcases the talents, skills and athleticism of America’s firefighters in a sports competition. “Many local county and city fire departments will participate,” says Jolliffe. “The event is a great way to engage different communities who can come to the fair and cheer on their home teams.”
For specific times and dates of performance, go to www.statefairva.org. The State Fair of Virginia runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 7 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.
The Main Stage Presented by Farm Bureau
October 1, Craig Campbell
October 2, Dylan Scott
October 3, Trent Harmo
October 4, Natalie Grant
October 5, Chris Lane
October 6, Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys with Earl White Stringband
October 7, Scotty McCreery