As summer comes to a close and autumn is upon us, one of the signs of the season (besides football, of course), is the arrival of the Tulsa State Fair. Initially, the thought of the State Fair may illicit images of corn dogs, funnel cakes and fried food side by side with the Midway’s rides and carnival games. For others, the announcement of the fair may signal 4-H events, livestock shows, or even the annual Oklahoma State Picking and Fiddling Championships.
Local music fans may think a little differently, however, realizing that the annual arrival of the State Fair also means we’ve got a widespread selection of touring bands coming through town while some of our better known local acts get a chance to play in front of a more diverse crowd than they might usually see. The best part of this is the fact that nearly all of the shows are essentially free, included in the price of your Fair admission. If purchased at the gate, adult tickets are $10 on weekends or $8 during the week, with seniors, youth and military personnel being charged only $6.
What music fans really want to know, however, is simply who is playing this year. As always, the State Fair is bringing a broad assortment of acts this year, ranging from classic rock and nostalgia to pop, Christian and modern rock, as well as the obligatory country music that goes hand in hand with the State Fair audience. Depending on your taste and your age, you can surely fi nd a night to suit your style and that of your family, perhaps calling for more than one trip to the fairgrounds over the next couple of weeks. So just what do we have in store? Let’s take a look.
If you’re looking for headline acts playing to the masses, the schedule for the Oklahoma Stage provides all the info you’ll need. Located at the northwest end of the Midway and situated within a glance of the Expo Pavilion, this is where a bevy of headliners take the stage and keep the evenings alive and exciting during the 11 days of the State Fair. This year’s roster opens with fl ash and spectacle on Thursday night, Sept. 30, with Kiss tribute band Dressed to Kill taking the stage with full makeup, lights and pyrotechnics to create a lively replica of the band that I’ve often referred to as “Saturday morning cartoons come to life.” As we get into the weekend, the pop and country crowds will be satisfi ed as Gloriana headlines Friday, Oct. 1, followed by American Idol fi nalist Katherine McPhee on Saturday evening and a Sunday performance by “Country Gold” featuring classic singer Leroy VanDyke.
On Monday night, Oct. 4, Christian mainstay act Third Day makes an appearance, preceding the release of the band’s latest CD, Move, which is due for release on Oct. 19. The week then proceeds with performances by modern country artist Jamey Johnson on Tuesday evening, modern rock act Finger 11 on Wednesday and classic ’80s artist Rick Springfi eld on Thursday, Oct. 7.
Next weekend, the Fair wraps up with headline appearances by En Vogue, Gin Blossoms and classic rocker Gary Puckett on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, respectively.
Budweiser Beer Garden
More than merely a showcase for touring acts, the State Fair has also annually provided a place for an assortment of local artists to get exposed to a larger audience than many of the local clubs in the area can provide and this year is no exception. With artists ranging once again from country to pop and rock, a nice crosssection of our local scene is represented, even if it often plays to the middle ground and doesn’t stretch out to the outer edge of our indie scene. Considering the audience and demographic, however, that’s a wise play that still gives out local players a great opportunity.
This year, the Beer Garden Stage opens with one of our best, bust most unheralded local country acts, South 40, performing on Thursday night, Sept. 30.
The weekend follows with performances by Black Water Band, Travis Kidd and the High-Mids and cover band Three Hour Tour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before TJ McFarland takes the stage on Monday evening, Oct. 4. Tuesday night then sees Tom Basler of Full Moon Café’s Dueling Pianos take over to entertain the mid-week crowd.
After an evening off on Wednesday, the Budweiser Beer Garden becomes a showcase for this year’s Absolute Best of Tulsa Music Award winners going into the weekend.
Thursday, Oct. 7, spotlights this year’s Best Country Artist, Kristin Nicole Band, followed by two-time ABoT Best Party/Cover Band winner, Crossland. On Saturday, Oct. 9, the stage is then handed over to this year’s ABoT Band of the year, Halo Jordan, bringing a Christian rockabilly vibe to the beer garden stage for the evening. Finally, the Fair wraps up with perennial cover band Mid Life Crisis wrapping up the festivities on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 10.
This year, you’ve also got an extra stage that deserves a little attention, as the International Beer Garden brings in select acts for just a few evenings worth of entertainment. Once again, one of Tulsa’s most underrated guitarists and songwriters, Travis Kidd is featured, performing for the International Beer Garden crowd on both Opening night, Thursday, Sept. 30 and again the following Thursday evening, Oct. 7. Rising country star Chloe Johns makes a featured appearance on Friday night, Oct. 1, and guitarist Lon De Ada performs on consecutive Saturday evenings, Oct. 2 and 9, to provide a classy and relaxed soundtrack for the evening.
Of course, the one thing that’s missing is the really big name country acts, but those are always included with the PRCA Rodeo and this year is no different. Tickets to the rodeo are $25 per night, but include admission to not only the rodeo event, but the concert afterwards as well. This year’s rodeo headline concerts bring established artist Clay Walker to Tulsa on Friday night, Oct. 8, followed by Eli Young Band on Saturday, Oct. 9. While both nights provide a great competition followed by a high profi le country act, you really want to keep your eye on Saturday night’s headliner, Eli Young Band. The band has been on the rise all year long, with TV appearances and a slew of listener awards and promises to be the next big act currently breaking out of the Texas country movement.
With 11 nights of entertainment, this year’s Tulsa State Fair surely has something for everyone, whether you prefer the ’80s nostalgia of Rick Springfi eld, the mainstream Christian rock of Third Day, the pop country of Gloriana or modern rock of Finger 11. Surely, country music fans can’t be let down, either, with everything from classic country to the hottest rising country stars like Jamey Johnson and Eli Young Band represented as well. If music is part of your State Fair agenda, you shouldn’t be let down this year. Just make sure to check the schedule online at tulsastatefair.com to pick your evenings accordingly and the State Fair becomes a full night that extends beyond corndogs, the midway and 4-H exhibitions.
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