Jamboree serves as reunion site

MORRISTOWN – There are a myriad of reasons that people come to Jamboree In The Hills.

For some, it’s all about the music, while for others it’s about the party and fun.

Some come because it’s tradition and just what they do.

Canton resident Diane Lewis is embarking on her 25th year at the Jamboree and has turned the event into a family reunion.

“Once we started coming, I’ve never missed it,” Lewis said Tuesday afternoon inside the Jamboree In The Hills campground. “I really, really like it. It’s just so much fun and everyone’s so nice. You really can’t beat this.”

When Lewis talks about a family reunion, she means her literal family, too. Not just her “Jambo Family.”

“We’re usually always in the same spot inside for the shows and we just have a great time,” Lewis said. “We plan it all out and we’ll be here until we can longer come. You’ve got to love it!”

Lewis, who is a Beallsville High School graduate, has relatives scattered all over the campgrounds that are near the JITH site.

“There are probably 20 of us who come over for this,” Lewis said. “We only see each other once in a while, so this is where we get together.”

While Lewis and her family have become staples at the Jamboree, Ken Mack of Johnstown, Pa. is attending his first festival since its move from its initial site.

“I was at the other site three times in the 80s,” Mack said. “I told my friends about this and they actually came last year and loved it. So, we all came this year. A bunch of us will be here this year and now we’re just waiting for a good time.”

Mack and many others at the campgrounds have spent the first two days of Jamboree week trying to do anything they can to beat the heat and humidity. Many pools have sprung up around the venue as folks are doing their best to stay cool.

“We’re just drinking plenty of fluids and things to stay cool,” Mack said. “It’s actually not that bad with a breeze and some shade, but you still have to stay hydrated.”

While the official opening of the Jamboree isn’t until Thursday afternoon, the venue opened Tuesday evening as the Rust Belt Kings, which feature Joe Zelek, performed a show.

The pre-week action really picks up steam tonight as additional free shows are planned at the JITH site, as well as neighboring campgrounds.

The gates open on Thursday at 8 a.m. with the annual “Redneck Run” and the show begins at 3 p.m.

The top acts for this year’s event are Miranda Lambert (Thursday), Luke Bryan (Friday), Toby Keith (Saturday) and Neal McCoy (Sunday).

However, for both Lewis and Mack, it’s another artist they’re most looking forward to.

“I’m most looking forward to Trace Adkins, but we’re also looking forward to Sunday. We really the older groups like the Oak Ridge Boys, and Sammy Kershaw was great when he was here a few years back.”

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com