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Taking to the stage: Fayette Fair once again offers top-notch entertainment

| Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Entertainment at the Fayette County Fair this year will have the return of favorite regulars as well as a new thrill show for the arena.

Back again this year in the Outdoor Arena are the various tractor pulls, Mud Mania, the bull-riding competition, penning competition, a horse-pulling contest and the always popular demolition derby, motor cross and the monster truck races.

Hazel Blaney, who co-chairs the outdoor entertainment events with her husband, John, says the programs will stay the same this year as in the previous years of the fair.

"It sounds strange," says Blaney, "but you stay with the tried and true."

The monster trucks, the soon-to-be-wrecked vehicles in the demolition derby and the dirt bikes are not just the most popular in general, but favorites of the young and the old alike.

One thing that changed with the program this year, according to John Blaney, is that the garden tractor pulls have been moved from the evening hours to Saturday morning to attract more participants.

While the fair officially starts on July 29, the activity at the Outdoor Arena will begin the night before with a dead-weight tractor pull to begin at 7 p.m. to make room for a new event to take place on Friday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m., Charlie Belknap's Hollywood Stunt Show.

Hazel Blaney says she saw a videotape of the thrill show.

"It's thrilling," she says, "a gasping experience."

Belknap says the whole situation with the stunt show is to recreate stunts from movies and television while promoting the Ford vehicles used for such stunts.

Of the stunts used in the show, Belknap says he and the team of 10 drive a car on two wheels that was first done in a James Bond movie with a Ford Mustang, crash sequences like roll-over crashes, motorcycle stunts involving bikes jumping through flaming barriers and other vehicular stunts throughout the show.

As the announcer, Belknap explains the stunt to the crowd and how the stunt works.

Belknap says every show runs about 70 minutes and usually contains around 20 stunt "events," which changes depending on the track conditions. Belknap adds that they'll go through 91 shows on their tour of 48 cities in 15 weeks.

With the large number of stunts in which the crew is involved during the tour, Belknap says the number one safety procedure is the repetition of the stunt, having everything scheduled and doing the same thing in the same order to have it become routine for everyone working on the show.

Belknap says the stunt show draws in a crowd of mixed ages, and he has found out that different people like different things.

The crew usually finds what people like during the autograph session at the end of the show. Belknap finds that children like the thrill show's stunt clown, Sparky the Daredevil Clown, when he goes into an outhouse that explodes.

Even though the gag has nothing to do with the auto show, Belknap says the children say that's their favorite stunt.

"Everybody likes something different," says Belknap.

For those who aren't excited by the thrills and spills taking place at the Outdoor Arena, the Indoor Arena offers different types of entertainment.

The Fayette County Fair wouldn't be complete without a Povertyneck Hillbilly concert set for two days during the fair.

Povertyneck Hillbillies member Chris Higbee said during a fair preview luncheon that the fair is the biggest play for the band every year and as long as the band is around, they'll be back to play.

Area hits from the Hillbillies include "Mr. Right Now," "Fly," and "Coming to See You," and the band have appeared with such bands and singers like the Charlie Daniels Band, Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley and Mark Wills.

Other local acts for the fair will include country bands Crazy Cowboy Band and Midnight Run as well as two out-of-state acts of the country variety.

The fair has hosted such up-and-coming-stars like Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Lone Star. This year, Jeff Bates and Craig Morgan will perform for Fayette County.

Originally from Mississippi, Bates worked on an oil rig and as a welder, joined the National Guard before forming his own band in Arkansas, but got caught up with using drugs and landing in jail soon after.

He used his experiences with drugs, stealing and time in jail to reveal in his music the cold and hard truth that was as evident in his life.

Bates noted songs include "My Inlaws are Outlaws," "Already Spent," "Country Enough," "Long, Slow Kisses" and "I Wanna Make You Cry."

Raised in rural Tennessee, Craig Morgan worked as an EMT worker, served as a paratrooper, trained at ROK Ranger School in Korea, is air assault qualified, a rappel master, a jump master, has helped trained elite combat units and was named U.S. Army Male Vocalist of the Year.

Morgan gained more experience as a staff writer for Sony/ATV Tree Publishing in Nashville and writes most of his songs as well as co-writing songs for Bill Anderson, Dean Dillon, Sharon Vaughn, Harley Allen and Buddy Cannon, who also co-produced Morgan's first self-titled album in 2000.

Morgan's hits includes "Almost Home," "Look at Us," and "Something to Write Home About."

According to Fayette County Fair Board President Bill Jackson says what sets the Fayette County Fair apart from other fairs is its Family Area, which will have the return of the Barnyard Petting Zoo started in 1980, the return of Buffo The World's Strongest Clown, Nancy's Racing Pigs, War Horses of the World, the Wild World of Animals, Paul Plays it All and the Amazing Feats of Comedy by Michael Rosman, who performs juggling and balancing antics, and Paul Plays it All, which is a one-man performance of multiple instruments including the kitchen sink .

"We've done it for so long," says Hazel Blaney of the fair's entertainment. "We know it works."

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