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BamaJam returns with sterling lineup

Eric Church performs "Drink In My Hand" during the 45th annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn. The Associated Press

Eric Church performs "Drink In My Hand" during the 45th annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn. The Associated Press

Carlton Fletcher

carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com

ENTERPRISE, Ala. — When country megastar Kenny Chesney played on the final night of BamaJam 2010 to what organizers announced was a crowd that surpassed 100,000, the annual country music gathering that was the brainchild of promoter Ronnie Gilley had officially become a major event.

Then the wheels fell off.

Gilley pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to a statewide gambling corruption investigation and agreed to testify for the state. And the momentum that had been generated by the overwhelming success of the 2010 festival fizzled to nothing as BamaJam 2011 never happened.

With an infusion of enthusiasm generated by new investors, however, BamaJam is back with the potential to be as good as ever. With a superstar lineup scheduled to perform Thursday-Saturday and the festival set to coincide with the opening of the brand new Hillbilly Water Park on the 1,600 acres that make up the new and improved BamaJam Farms, organizers are hoping to reignite the magic generated by the likes of Chesney, Jamey Johnson, the Allman Brothers Band, Train and Robert Earl Keen two years ago.

Based on talent alone, BamaJam 2012 is poised to be a hit. Tim McGraw, the Zac Brown Band and Kid Rock were announced early as the event’s headliners, but the more than 40 acts that have been added in the days leading up to the festival make it a must-see for country music fans.

Eric Church, whose “Blood, Sweat and Beers” tour is one of the nation’s hottest, will join McGraw, Willie Nelson, Darryl Worley, Third Day, the Outlaws and the Lost Trailers — featuring Albany’s Stokes Nielson — among the 20 acts scheduled to appear on Thursday alone.

Brown, Alan Jackson, NEEDTOBREATHE, Ronnie Milsap, Stryper and Badfinger are among the superstar acts scheduled to play Friday; while Rock will be joined Saturday by his former singing partner/love interest Sheryl Crow, Johnson, Gov’t Mule, Uncle Kracker and Yelawolf.

“This place has become a redneck Disneyland,” said Worley, who is part of the business partnership that is reviving BamaJam. The chart-topping singer will serve as host of the festival Thursday and has served as a spokesman for BamaJam since its return was announced.

“I think with the addition of the ATV trails, the Hillbilly Water Park, the nine-hole golf course and we’re planning maybe four big events and as many as 25-30 smaller concerts a year, this thing is going to roll. It’s always been a dream of mine to get in on the ground floor of something like this.”

Worley said he expects BamaJam to overcome the negatives associated with Gilley’s legal issues.

“The (investors) who came in decided to pick things up where they were and run with them,” Worley, who’s had three No. 1 country hits during his career, said. “They laid the negatives out there and dealt with them. The first thing they did was make sure and refund all the ticket money that had been collected for last year’s festival.

“I believe that will make a huge difference in people coming back to BamaJam this year.”

The return of BamaJam is certainly a boost to the economy of Enterprise. More than 1,200 employees, including 400 contractor positions, have been hired to help with the event, and local hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the community are expecting an extremely busy weekend.

“It’s very important to us that we deliver an amazing festival while at the same time helping the local community and the people that support us,” BamaJam 2012 Executive Producer Randy Lovelady said. “We are proud to be able to support in excess of 1,200 (employees) and generate revenues for the local community.”

Tickets, which are currently $159 for a three-day pass and will be $189 at the gate, are available at www.bamajam2012.com, through Ticketfly.com or by phone at (877) 4FLYTIX or (877) 435-9849.

BamaJam Farms is located on the corner of Alabama Highway 167 and County Road 156 just north of Enterprise. Directions from all locations are available at www.bamajam2012.com.