The main goal is to introduce York country fans to new artists, said station promotions manager Rick Kennis.
At the beginning of the year, Kennis and WGTY program director Scott Donato look at the charts and talk to labels in Nashville to decide who to book. They interview artists before Radio Stage sets. Afterward, performers greet fans in Memorial Hall.
Those interactions might have seemed routine at the time. But, mere months after the fair, some Radio Stage musicians are in demand.
Kennis and Donato have tried to perfect that pattern during seven years since the station took over the free concert series. Luke Bryan is a good example.
"(He) played our radio stage back in 2007," Donato said. "Now, he's a superstar."
In addition to Bryan, who headlines a grandstand this showyear at the fair, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley have also played the Radio Stage. Sunny Sweeney, another Radio Stage alum, opens Blake Shelton's grandstand show this year.
"(The stage) has kind of turned into a crystal ball of sorts," Kennis said. It's become a must-attend event for those who want to know who will be hot on the country charts in the coming months.
WGTY has increased its offerings through the years. This year, there is a concert every night. Some nights, there are two.
And, unlike other years, most of this year's Radio Stage lineup has generated more than just buzz in Nashville.
"We hit the jackpot in a lot of cases," Donato said. "Every artist has had some kind of impact in the market. They've made a dent."
Ten of the artists already hit the charts. Dustin Lynch and Greg Bates cracked the top 30 on Billboard's country chart. Others, including Lauren Alaina and Casey James, have competed on "American Idol."
WGTY has booked a few bigger names for the Radio Stage in the past, Donato said, but this year's lineup offers a diverse, yet consistent caliber of talent. Following tradition, the concert series will also give a few local artists the chance to hit it big this year.
Those acts include Mountain Road and Brittany Opperman.
In the past, shows have attracted anywhere from 200 to 2,000 fans.
It all depends on the artist and the weather, Donato said, but most people will take a chance on a free show. And that's how the concert series has developed some devout followers through the years.
With this year's lineup, veterans and new attendees might want to arrive early to secure a spot for stargazing.
- ERIN McCRACKEN,
York Fair Radio Stage lineup
All concerts are on the outdoor Radio Stage, between gates 2 and 3, unless otherwise listed:
6:30 p.m. Friday - J.T. Hodges
8 p.m. Friday - Parmalee at the new Fairgrounds Sports Bar
3 p.m. Saturday - Andy Gibson
6:30 p.m. Saturday -Randy Houser
3 p.m. Sunday - Brittany Opperman; Read an interview with her on page 9
6:30 p.m. Sunday - Casey James
6:30 p.m. Monday - Thomas Rhett
6:30 p.m. Tuesday - Kristen Kelly
6:30 p.m. Wednesday - Dustin Lynch
6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 - Greg Bates
6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 - The Farm
3 p.m. Sept. 15 - Mountain Road
6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 - Lauren Alaina
3 p.m. Sept. 16 - Due West
6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 - Katie Armiger