Hot times at the Jamboree

By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Searing temperatures and humidity aside, this year’s Oregon Jamboree drew huge crowds to hear headliners Miranda Lambert, Trace Adkins and Old Dominion, and experienced relatively few problems, according to organizers.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had three days in a row that were that hot and muggy,” Festival Director Robert Shamek said Monday as crews tore down the stage and lowered tents around the Sweet Home High School athletic fields and in Sankey Park. “We sold a lot of beer.”

But, Shamek said, “it went really well. Overall, it was just phenomenal.

“It was really nice to have the Jamboree back in full motion – no regulations. It was nice just to see everyone just having a great time.”

Attendance was just about what organizers were expecting, he said.

“We had 15,000 a day. We were hoping for 15,000, 16,000, so we were right on the mark.”

The fact that Lambert is releasing a new album was a big draw, he said, and Ian Munsick, who took Saturday’s pre-headliner 7 p.m. slot was a big hit.

“Ian Munsick is such a huge fan favorite,” Shamek said. “He’s really got that younger generation hooked on him, like a young ’90s country artist.”

Ben Haley, 25, of Grants Pass, and Makenzie Larsen, 21, of Myrtle Point, said they enjoyed Munsick.

“Ian Munzick was awesome,” Haley said. ” We were lucky enough there were some open seats in the front row.”

“It was fun to actually be up there,” Larsen added. “A lot of people didn’t really care and know about him – he’s a little smaller. So it was fun to get up front. The camera caught us a few times. We had people tell us they saw us on the big screen, so it was a good time.”

Cloverdayle’s Rachel and Chad Hamar pose with young fans Hayden Bethers, 12, Adley Roscoe, 11. amd Emrey Roscoe, 8, all of Bend, as their moms handle the camera work Sunday afternoon.

Trace Adkins, Saturday’s headliner, got the crowd involved as a Fox TV crew shot promo footage for the upcoming country music TV drama “Monarch,” set to debut this fall. Starring Adkins, Susan Sarandon and Anna Friel, “Monarch” chronicles the turbulent story of the Romans, a fictional Texas music dynasty producers to be “the first family of country music.”

Adkins led the crowd in five or six takes in which he announced that he would be in the show, and the crowd roared in approval.

18-year-old Gabriel Hernandez, of Crescent City, at his first Jamboree, said he liked Adkins the best, though he had yet to see Old Dominion.

Tim Rettke of Brookings, enjoying the festival with his wife, Dianne, said that getting to see Adkins and, on Friday night, Joe Nichols, was “awesome.”

Though they said the heat was “miserable,” the Rettkes said the performances were “fantastic.”

“These things are amazing,” Tim said. “You get to see the star, the upcoming stars you don’t normally hear on the radio.”

The Rettkes noted that Jessie G., who performed at last year’s Jamboree, is from their hometown.

“That’s where she got started,” Dianne said.

“I’ve seen her grow up,” Tim said. “I went to school with her folks.”

Kathy Graham of Cottage Grove, who has been attending the Jamboree for “about 10 years,” said this year’s festival was “great,” though she did notice “a little bit of confusion – I think because they’re losing some volunteers and a lot of experience.”

Shamek said the heat kept some veterans out of action, though they’re not necessarily done with the Jamboree.

“We have a really great older crowd that likes to volunteer,” he said. “But basically, when it’s 100 degrees and 100% humidity, we don’t want to force them to work. I think the heat really took a toll on a lot of them.”

This year, volunteer teams were broken down into smaller units as well, he said, but other than heat-related no-shows, the numbers weren’t significantly down, he said.

Attendees who spoke to The New Era said they enjoyed the low-key, down-home atmosphere.

“We did (the Willamette Country Music Festival in) Brownsville for nine years,” said Susie Mueller of Grants Pass, at this year’s festival with her husband Dave. “(The Jamboree) is cleaner, it’s friendly, the music is amazing. The different thing, it’s like it doesn’t seem as crowded and the people are more civilized.”

Dave added: “It’s very organized and easy to get in and out. I really like all the different campsites everywhere. It’s not like one big thing, where everybody can’t get in or get out. It’s waaaay more comfortable.”

The only noticeable wrinkle occurred when Danielle Bradbery, scheduled to perform at 5 p.m. Saturday, didn’t show.

“We received a phone call saying she had a conflict in her schedule,” Shamek said.

Jessie Leigh interacts with fans during her concert on Sunday afternoon.

Jessie Leigh, who has played the Jamboree before, was already performing in campgrounds, he said, and was immediately available.

Leigh, from Estacada, attracted a sizeable crowd in the pit beneath the stage Sunday afternoon as she launched into a program that included the unfurling of a giant American flag as she sang her own “Small Town Fight,” then launched into a cover of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“She’s super patriotic,” Shamek said. “People love her.”

This year’s festival was emceed by Rachel and Chad Hamer of Cloverdayle, who could also be seen circulating through the crowd between performances.

Sankey Park, which was back this year as a Jamboree venue, drew large crowds of fans seeking shade, but the largest ever to the Deschutes stage.

“It’s such a nice park now,” Shamek said of Sankey, which had some large Douglas fir stands thinned over the past two years.

“Colt Ford on Friday and Whitey Morgan on Saturday, put on a heck of a show,” he said. “I’ve never seen that many people in Sankey before.”

David and Stephanie Fowlar, of Sweet Home, who were at “about our 20th Jamboree,” said they appreciated how the festival “kept rolling, even when people didn’t show up.

“You could tell that the schedule was changing, but they just kept rolling with it,” Stephanie said, adding that she appreciated an extended set played by the a cappella band Home Free Sunday afternoon.

Other fans appreciated them as well.

“I love Home Free,” Graham said. “They’re really unique.”

Jamboree officials announced two performers for next year’s show: Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and Cody Johnson.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd kind of runs the whole realm,” Shamek said. “Even if you don’t think you know them, you probably know all their songs.”

Johnson, he said, performs “rodeo country, which is not, typically, what we do. But he’s so big, we figured we should bring him in.”

Fans responded, he said.

“The 2023 ticket sales are really knocking it out of the park.”

Public safety officials said things went well.

“From our perspective everything went smoothly and was well-run,” said Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District Chief Nick Tyler. “As a new chief, I was a little overwhelmed with having 20,000-plus people come to town, but the crowds were very mild. We dealt with some heat exhaustion and alcohol related incidents, but from the most part it was extremely mild from the fire and EMS standpoint.”

Shamek noted that the Oregon State Police provided eight officers, who patrolled the grounds on foot and on bicycles.

“It kind of amazes me that we had so few problems,” he said. “But most of our patrons are long-time. They’re not engaged in stupid stuff that they shouldn’t be doing.”

That general response was echoed by Police Chief Jeff Lynn, who said his department was still “running stats, ” but from my standpoint, being on the grounds the whole time, it really went well, better than expectations. Our calls were significantly less than some years past.”

Lynn said he wasn’t sure why – “whether it was the heat that kind of kept the lid on things or just a really good crowd this year.”

He said he appreciated OSP’s help.

“We have a nearly full staff in our department, but we have so many people still in training,” he said. “I’m really appreciative of the OSP Mobile Response Team coming in and assisting us.”

Outside the festival grounds, things were “close to normal,” Lynn said, noting that two arrests – both suspects from out of town – were made, one for violation of a restraining order and the other for assault.

“I have a hunch that the thefts are going to be down as well,” he said, adding that he was awaiting final numbers Tuesday morning.

“It appears that we had a great crowd this year.

Susie Mueller said the community made a difference.

“We how friendly everybody is who lives in this town and how much they make you feel welcome before you know what you’re doing or where you are. It’s awesome.”