By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
GAINESBORO – When the idea was hatched for the Cumberland River Music Festival, few imagined that it was the beginning of festival that could have a lasting impact on Jackson and the surrounding counties. This weekend, Jamie Dailey, of Dailey and Vincent, and Jordan Hunter, with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, hope to prove that is exactly what has happened.
The star-studded lineup for the festival includes such legendary acts as Dailey and Vincent, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bellamy Brothers, Jimmy Fortune, John Conley, The Lost Saints, Jake Hoot and more.
The festival is set for Friday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct 9. The gates will open both days at 1 p.m., and tickets are available at www.cumberlandrivermusicfest.com and one-day or two-day ticket options are available.
On Saturday night, there will be a tribute to Dailey’s childhood heroes.
“They are the reason I wanted to sing the way I do sing and play – The Statler Brothers,” Dailey shared. “It will be fun to stand on the river down there and sing those songs – a tribute to the Statler Brothers with Jimmy Fortune, one of the Statler Brothers, himself to sing along with us.”
As often as possible, Dailey looks for opportunities to share the stage with Fortune.
“Jimmy is in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he’s also in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and still singing great on his own. When the Statlers retired, he went on his own and is still singing and playing, so we are looking very forward to having him as well,” added Dailey.
“This event is a partnership between Dailey and Vincent and the Jackson County Chamber,” said Hunter. “All the money raised is going back into supporting having another music festival next year and growing our music branding for Jackson County. It is all going back to promoting more music for this festival, but hopefully it will also grow into sponsoring multiple festivals to help Jackson County and the area.”
As Grand Ole Opry member, Dailey has reached a level of success in the music industry that few in Jackson County could ever aspire to. He has traveled, performing internationally as a member of both Dailey & Vincent, with musical partner Darren Vincent of DeKalb County, and with bluegrass legends Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.
Dailey and Hunter had talked for several years about bringing more music to Gainesboro. Daily and Vincent had been coming to Jackson County for about five or six years. We had performed two-three concerts at the high school football field. We had performed at the Bull and Thistle. We performed a lot at Avery Trace – a yearly event – and got to selling it out, added a second night and were selling both nights out.
Last October, Dailey held a concert at his home on Flagler Point aptly named “Flagler Jam.” The response was overwhelming.
Dailey recalled, “We had people email us after attending Flagler Jam, saying that they would pay double just to picnic and watch the river. And then you add the music to it, it just brightened their whole…they were down. Lot’s of people are in emotional distress, and it just really helped give us a boost. These people are coming from Iowa, Kansas, places where it’s flat, you just can’t imagine what that does for some people.”
After that concert, the idea of Cumberland River Fest was born. They settled on Oct. 8 and 9 for this year, and they are looking at having the event yearly on a set weekend to be determined.
“We want to grow this into something like what Merlefest is over in (Wilkesboro)North Carolina,” explained Dailey. “I play that every other year. They have acts from Vince Gill to Wynonna Judd, from Alison Kraus to smaller groups, and this brings in tens of thousands of people to this small town.”
Dailey hopes that Gainesboro and the surrounding areas can see ongoing benefits from this music-filled weekend, much like they do in Wilkesboro.
“The businesses have been able to take the revenue and make their businesses look better, revitalize them structurally, and offer more product from their business,” shared Dailey. “It’s allowed them to take money that they made the festival weekend and spend it on marketing outside of the festival that helps them throughout the year. There’s a lot of little inner mechanisms that provide a boost for these small businesses that most people don’t realize that festivals do over the long period of years.”
Hunter stressed that although the festival was being held in Gainesboro, it is truly a regional event.
“This isn’t just going to help Jackson County,” Hunter said. “We have maybe 50-60 rooms in the county. Where is everyone going to stay? It’s going to help Clay County, Overton, all your camp sites around the area. I feel that this is not only going to be an economic driver for Jackson County but the entire region as a whole. We want to show that if we work together, this can be as big as anybody imagines it can be.”
Dailey only intends to sell between 3,000-3,500 tickets for this first concert, and the venue is approximately six acres giving people plenty of room to spread out and take whatever COVID precautions they feel necessary.
“With the airport, it’s a very expansive area,” Dailey said. “If they feel uncomfortable being around people, they will have all the acreage around them to spread out. The sound system will be big enough they can hear, and we are going to have video boards, so they will be able to see from those. If someone wants to wear a mask, they are welcome to do that.”
To Dailey what’s important is the people and the music.
“We understand that people have been through a very trying time with the pandemic, and this is there to help them personally, to come out where they can sit and enjoy live entertainment, enjoy themselves and feel that they are somewhat normal again,” Dailed added. “Music touches people. It helps people mentally. It helps people emotionally. There is also a driving force with that as well. And it’s important.