Big-time country music can feel like a big city attraction. To take nothing away from the Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen, Ga. and other small town venues that've earned a spot on headlining acts' tour calendars, chances to watch live sets by Opry stars and up-and-comers seem more like something rural folks save up for and take time off to see in major markets, not something that comes to hard-working fans' backyards.
Of course, smaller towns have hosted major events over time, from the earliest bluegrass festivals in the '60s to the band Alabama boosting DeKalb County, Ala.'s economy in the '80s and '90s with June Jam gatherings. Jamie Dailey, one-half of Dailey & Vincent, followed this blueprint when he and local officials invited country, gospel and bluegrass acts to his hometown of Gainesboro, Tenn. (population 926) for this past weekend's (Oct. 8-9) Cumberland River MusicFest (sometimes styled as "music fest").
Just as bluegrass put places like Fincastle, Va. (population 755) on the map and cousins Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry made Fort Payne, Ala. (population 14,115) an epicenter of country music, Cumberland River MusicFest introduced visitors from across the nation to the gorgeous mountain views of Jackson County, Tenn. While in the area to catch sets by The Oak Ridge Boys, John Conlee, The Bellamy Brothers, Jake Hoot and others, ticket holders supported local businesses, from the restaurants with food trucks on site to hotels in surrounding counties.
Beyond boosting musical tourism in a town with a Tennessee Pathways marker for being Dailey's birthplace, the festival surely saved numerous locals precious time and money by bring music to them. Though Nashville's not all that far from interstate-accessible Gainesboro, it's easy to generalize that a lot of country music fans living near the festival work five days a week or more and don't have time to travel to concerts. Likewise, some may choose for a variety of reasons to spend their hard-earned pay on something other than out-of-town entertainment.
Expect an even more impressive bill next October when the event returns as the rebranded Dailey & Vincent's American Made Music Fest and continues a June Jam-like effort to shift more eyes to one of the most gorgeous towns along the Cumberland River.