Throngs headed to IOW

Published 11:56 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

WINDSOR—After booking country music singer Jake Owen as Saturday night’s headliner for the Isle of Wight County Fair, fair officials kept their fingers crossed.

It worked.

Owen this week hit number one on the Billboard Country Music Chart with “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” A single-day record crowd of 18,000 to 20,000 and buses from as far as New Jersey, Delaware and North Carolina are expected for the 9 p.m. show, said Fair Coordinator Darlene Keyt.

“It’s mind blowing,” said Keyt, who suggests concert-goers be at the fair by 3 p.m. to see Owen. “This level of entertainment for a $5 admission fee. This brings a whole new dimension to the fair with people traveling from out of state to come.”

The $5 admission fee to the fair on Friday through Sunday includes concerts, which featured Sunny Sweeney on Friday night and will feature James Wesley at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the Main Stage.

“All (three) acts are in the top 40,” said Entertainment Chairman Stan Murrell. “This is a first.”

Murrell in April confirmed Owen’s booking, which is also when his song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was released.

Timing couldn’t be better for Owen to get his first number one song, Murrell said.

“It’s just a plan that came together,” he said. “He’s never had a number one song, but he had a song that hit number two.”

Murrell said he attempts to find acts, who plan to release an album in September, which Owens will do.

“Jake Owen has 167,000 Facebook fans,” Murrell said. “He has a large following.”

Last year, the Band Perry, whose song “If I Die Young,” earlier this month garnered five Country Music Association nominations including Song of the Year, packed in 16,000 fair-goers, Keyt said.

She hopes parking won’t be a problem for Saturday and suggests people check the web site for parking recommendations.

And Murrell isn’t worried about having enough space for lawn seating.

“We have plenty of space,” he said. “There’s 29 acres in the park.”

Then there’s Saturday’s 60 percent chance of rain.

“If there’s a 60 percent chance of rain, there’s a 40 percent chance of sunshine,” Keyt said. “We’re going to go with 40 percent . . . with the glass half full. We don’t ever get stressed out about the weather.”

The stage is set up to withstand a light rain, Murrell said.