Thursday, August 8th, 2013
By William Kincaid
National acts lined up for Mercer County Fair
  CELINA - Mercer County Fair organizers and country music fans alike are stoked about Friday night's concert featuring Joe Nichols and Angie Johnson, the first nationally-renowned performers to hit the grandstand stage in years.
The opening night concert begins at 8 p.m., and Nichols, a 36-year-old multi-platinum selling country musician with several No. 1 hits and top 10 singles - "Brokenheartsville," "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," and "Gimmie That Girl" - says he, too, is excited about bringing his six-man band to Mercer County.
"That's my kind of people," Nichols said about Mercer County during a phone interview with the newspaper.
Nichols, who noted he's been on the road since February, said although the band tinkers a bit with the song selections, they've got a solid, nicely-flowing setlist going featuring songs heard on the radio as well as some new tunes.
Some great performers never say a word to the crowd while performing live.
"I'm not that kind of guy," Nichols said. "I like to talk to the crowd ... and do some things more funny."
The Grammy-nominated, traditional country artist named Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 2002, said he has one of the better band's in country music.
They're a tight group of players who also do a lot of studio work, and Nichols said he doesn't have to worry about what's happening on the stage when they share it with him.
"We work together to put on a good show," he said.
Of all the shows they play, the county fairs prove to be the trickiest. With club or arena concerts, Nichols said the vibe is pretty consistent and filled mostly with his fans.
"With a fair, I will say it is a little different," he said, explaining the crowds can vary.
But Nichols loves traveling and meeting new people and said the fair is a special time of the year for the folks who live there; he fondly remembers spending all of his time and money at week-long fairs during his younger years.
"I love playing in Ohio .... it's (got) such a different feel to it in every corner," he said, adding some places don't feel Midwestern at all, while cities like Columbus have a collegiate atmosphere and Cleveland has a feel of its own.
Prior to Nichols' performance, 32-year-old Sony Music Nashville singer Angie Johnson, who gained national exposure after a video of her singing Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" to troops in the Middle East hit YouTube and her appearance on NBC's "The Voice," will warm up the crowd.
"Expect to have fun and see an energetic performance," Johnson told the newspaper about her show.
Johnson, who served in the U.S. Air Force, describes herself as "100 percent totally normal chick," with no stage facades or scripted antics.
"I'm just me. I'm goofy on stage .... I just talk from the heart," she said.
Growing up, Johnson listened to Wynonna Judd and Merle Haggard, which she says influenced her older-country, bluesy-backboned music that she said isn't like the kind of country played by Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood.
Johnson said she's been getting an awesome response on the road and has been pleasantly surprised by the people, including many tweens and teens, waiting in line after the shows to meet her at the merchandise booth.
Despite the warm receptions, Johnson feels the pressure to prove herself as more than just the vocal phenom on YouTube and "The Voice."
"I don't feel it from fans, (I) feel it from the industry," she said, adding success didn't come overnight; she worked in Nashville for seven years and played honkey tonks on Broadway Street and performed for troops overseas before gaining recognition.
She attributes all of her success to God.
Fair manager Cara Muhlenkamp expects the show to be sold out by Friday evening and said the few remaining tickets can be purchased at the fair office or by calling 419-586-3239.
"The community response was phenomenal," Muhlenkamp said. "I can't say thank you enough for their support and enthusiasm."
It's likely the fair will attempt to book similar acts in the future, she said.
"For our first entertainment for a long time, we definitely chose the right act," she said.
The performance stage was brought in from outside the area, and fair organizers have done a lot of planning and have been working with the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, Muhlenkamp said.
"We are so excited," she said. "We can't wait."
The Mercer County Fair also will host mother-daughter duo 2Steel Girls, who like Johnson, were featured on "The Voice," as well as Hallmark Channel's "Home and Family." They will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday in the beer garden.

Schedule:
The 161st Mercer County Fair begins at 8 a.m. Friday at the fairgrounds.
Some opening day highlights include:
9 a.m. - Agricultural judging
9 a.m. - Dairy cattle show
10 a.m. - Home, arts, domestic and household judging
11 a.m. - Sheep weighing
noon - Goat weighing
2 p.m. - Floral judging
3 p.m. - Opening ceremony
3:15 p.m. - Entertainer Incredible Bob
4:30 p.m. - Swine Royalty Contest
5 p.m. - King and queen contest
5 p.m. - Cakes, pies and produce auction
6 p.m. - Swine carcass show
6 p.m. - Rabbit dress-up contest
6:30 p.m. - Royalty crowning
7 p.m. - Horseshoe tournament
7:45 p.m. - Announcement of Hometown Hero
8 p.m. - Joe Nichols concert featuring Angie Johnson
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