Friday, January 11th, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Concerts will return to Mercer County Fair
  CELINA - This year's county fair is shaping up to be a barnyard-stomper with two country music concerts and a host of new activities.
Sony Nashville singer and Air National Guard member Angie Johnson is booked as the opening act Aug. 9. She will warm up the crowd for popular country artist Joe Nichols, who may be best known for his billboard hit "Tequila makes her clothes fall off."
"We're very excited," Mercer County Fair Manager Cara Muhlenkamp said. "There's a lot of new things going on."
Muhlenkamp and fair board president Jeff Selhorst said it's been years since contracts were penned with big-name entertainers. In the past, thousands of dollars were lost when attendance was down. They believe solid planning and great sponsorship will reduce the risk this year.
"We're working with promoters and co-sponsors to make this a success," Muhlenkamp said.
Selhorst said the people of Mercer County want to see concerts return to the grandstand and this year's entertainers will satisfy that craving.
Johnson, a Missouri native, began her military career as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Air Force before joining Tops in Blue, traveling musicians who perform for fellow troops around the world. She currently serves in the Air National Guard.
During her seventh tour to Afghanistan and the Middle East in August 2011, someone videotaped her performing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and posted it to YouTube. The clip went viral and launched her singing career. Her first extended play release is due in stores soon.
Nichols has received new artist awards from the Country Music Association, Billboard, Radio & Records, Music Row magazine and the Academy of Country Music and earned honors for his songs "Brokenheartsville," "Gimmie That Girl," "The Impossible," "Size Matters" and others.
In 2001, Nichols became the flagship artist on Universal South Records and a year later topped the charts with two of his songs. He soon began touring with Toby Keith and Alan Jackson. His latest CD "It's all good" was released in 2011.
Fair officials say their goal for this year's fair Aug. 9-15 is making the week more fun and affordable for families. On several days patrons receive discount options such as bringing in canned food for the local CALL Food Pantry on Aug. 12 for $2 off the admission price.
Other new events this year include the appearance of Barney Fife look-a-like Scott Epperson, pony and wiener dog races, a straw stacking race and Skid Steer Rodeo.
Returning after a few years' absence is the cheerleading competition and tractor and truck pulls. Other returning favorites include harness racing, the demo derby, high school band show and Bear Hollow carving.
For more information, check out www.mercercountyohiofair.com or the Mercer County Fairgrounds site on Facebook.
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