"The York market has always been heavy on the country side," said the program director at WGTY-FM Great Country 107.7.
The station has grown its free Great Country Radio Stage concert series at the York Fair during the past eight years. In 2011, it decided to partner with fair organizers -- who also oversee York Expo Center events -- for a holiday country show.
"Our buildings at the Expo Center are busy ... year-round," said Gene Schenck, president of the fair and expo center. "December can be a slow month."
Donato said the radio station took the opening to bring in a couple up-and-coming Nashville acts at an affordable price. The inaugural Jingle Bell Jam, which included country star Laura Bell Bundy and "American Idol" alum Lauren Alaina, drew more than 1,000 people.
It was started as a one-time concert. But fans were still buzzing about it during the York Fair in September.
"Before we even started thinking about it, people were coming up to ask us what the acts were," Donato said.
That convinced the station and fair officials to try to make the Jingle Bell Jam a holiday tradition.
Donato said he thought husband-and-wife duo Keifer and Shawna Thompson, aka Thompson Square, would be a good fit for the 2012 Jingle Bell Jam. The station booked them for a 2011 York Revolution event, which was a success.
Right around the time Thompson Square signed on for the Jingle Bell Jam, the group won an Academy of Country Music Award. Right after the lineup was announced, it won a CMT Music Award.
Donato called Thompson Square country music's preeminent duo. It's set to release a new single and album soon.
For the opener, Donato turned to an act that didn't make the 2012 Great Country Radio Stage. Jana Kramer was originally slated to perform, but had a prior commitment and had to back out.
"We knew how disappointed people were for her not being able to make that date," Donato said. "Immediately, we thought she would be a really good fit for the Jingle Bell Jam ... opening act."
And Kramer has crossover appeal beyond the country genre since she's acted in TV series, including "Friday Night Lights," "Entourage" and "One Tree Hill."
Donato said both artists will play their hits and toss in a few holiday tunes. Between sets, WGTY will have a sing-along and prize give-
away. To spread the holiday cheer to the rest of the community, concertgoers are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the York Rescue Mission.
Tickets sales for this year's show -- priced at $14 a pop -- are outpacing last year's, Donato said. Even more folks seem to be making their country Christmas a reality.
-- ERIN McCRACKEN,
If you go
The York Expo Center and WGTY-FM Great Country 107.7 present a holiday show featuring Thompson Square with special guest Jana Kramer. The Jingle Bell Jam starts 7 p.m. Friday in the Toyota Arena at the Expo Center, 334 Carlisle Ave., West Manchester Township.
Tickets are $14. They are available
at the York Fair box office, by phone at 717-848-2033 and online at www.york
fair.com. There is a processing fee for phone, mail and online orders.
Ticket holders who bring a non-perishable food item to the concert will receive a coupon for a free small order of Bricker's Famous French Fries. Food items will be
donated to the York Rescue Mission.
Jana Kramer: www.janakramer.com
Read a 2011 interview with Thompson Square: www.yorkblog.com/flipside/celebrity-interviews