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Getting back to our roots

Second country music festival kicks off at Valley View Campgrounds

T-L Photos/JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH ABOVE: Siblings Nina and Chris Dutton stand ready to launch their Blame My Roots Fest on Wednesday, beginning with the free Valley Roots Night concert. The festival, in its second year at Valley View Campgrounds along U.S. 40 near Morristown, continues through Saturday.

BELMONT — Launching his family’s second Blame My Roots Fest concert Wednesday was like Christmas in July for Chris Dutton — he said he was really excited to be with people he had waited so long to see.

Dutton said that is what makes all the hard work of putting the event together worthwhile for him and his sister, Nina, primary organizers of the event, along with the rest of their family and crew. Since his family owned and operated Valley View Campgrounds directly across U.S. 40 from the former Jamboree In The Hills site, he said they got used to spending time with the many country music fans who camped on their farm each summer.

“It’s just fun to see all these people enjoying each other,” he added.

The Dutton siblings started Blame My Roots in 2019 after JITH owner Live Nation ended that decades-long concert series in November 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the planned 2020 BMR event, but the family carried on with plans to revive the festival this summer.

Chris Dutton said they are still learning the ins and outs of hosting such a large country music event, but they applied lessons from 2019 and added new events, activities and features. And since the venue is only a temporary concert site, he said a lot of work is required to put all the necessary stages, ticket booths, facilities and equipment in place.

“I’m excited it’s show week,” he added, noting that Blame My Roots is one of the first major music festivals to occur as the pandemic wanes.

The first acts took to the Roots Stage on Wednesday evening. Ashley Best, Sydney Mack, Hoard & Jones and DJ Daner entertained the crowd for Valley Roots Night — a free concert that was open to the public.

Since the show was outside the main concert gates on a secondary stage, attendees were permitted to bring their own beverages.

The same will be true this evening during the event’s official kickoff. Admission is free to anyone who holds a Friday or Saturday event pass. Whey Jennings, Thomas Gabriel and Kasey Tyndall will entertain the crowd beginning at 7 p.m.

Before the main show gets underway on Friday, Chris Dutton said a busker stage will be set up so local musicians can entertain people as they arrive. Luke Burkhart begins the Friday night lineup at 5:15 p.m., followed by Walker Montgomery, Adam Doleac, Jo Dee Messina and Neal McCoy — a longtime JITH fan favorite.

The music starts again at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, with Allie Colleen, followed by Niko Moon, Tenille Townes, Lee Brice and Miranda Lambert as the headliner.

Among the additions and changes that Dutton mentioned are new alcohol sales policies and a Food Truck Rally that provides a friendly competition among on-site vendors. Campground and tailgate areas permit BYOB beverage choices; however, all alcohol consumed within the concert venue must be purchased from a beer tent or from a beer garden in the VIP area.

Dutton did not say how many tickets have been sold so far, but he noted that many other events are experiencing a high volume of sales at the gate on the day of the event. He expects that trend to apply to BMR and said uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 may have caused many people to wait to buy their tickets.

“We’re still new … ,” he added. “A lot of people are wondering who we are and what we do out here.”

In addition to navigating the ever-changing restrictions and policies surrounding COVID-19, Dutton said the biggest challenge organizers faced in preparing for the festival was the weather. Gesturing toward the large stages and equipment, he said those fixtures are massive and heavy, making setup a difficult task. He also pointed out that the bowl-shaped lay of the land at the site creates a great amphitheater — but that natural bowl also collects rainwater.

“We need iot to be dry to set up,” he said. “All the rain has been tough on us. But, we started early enough and got it all in place.

“In 2019, it was 100 degrees. This year we had a little different challenge.”

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