Grainger Today Editor
RUTLEDGE – Almost immediately following this year’s Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series performance by The Charlie Daniels Band, speculation began about who next year’s performer would be.
Each year since the concert series’ inception, organizer Steve Longmire, owner of Tennessee Homegrown Tomatoes, has worked to increase the level of excitement surrounding the event.
In 2015, Longmire presented the idea of including the concert series as a way to increase festival participation after the festival’s 6 p.m. closing time, Saturday evening. He approached local musician Cooter Daniel with the idea, and the two men arranged the inaugural Tomato Festival Concert Series performance featuring Piper Montana. The first concert in the series was held at the main stage on the festival grounds.
The following year, Longmire raised the bar, working to enlist sponsors to bring the Kentucky Headhunters to Grainger County for a performance held in Rutledge Middle School stadium. That year, approximately 1,700 people attended the free concert.
To celebrate the Tomato Festival’s 25th anniversary, Longmire wanted to go even bigger, and increased his efforts to recruit enough sponsorship to fund a free-to-the-public performance of The Charlie Daniels Band. Longmire said an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people attended the concert – the biggest crowd so far.
While this year’s festival won’t involve a celebration of a milestone such as last year’s quarter-century festival anniversary, Longmire isn’t lowering the bar.
“We definitely couldn’t go down as far as entertainment goes, and I felt like the only thing we could do was to go up,” he said.
The headline entertainer for the fourth annual Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series will be country music star Trace Adkins.
Adkins’ recordings include a list of hits such as “You’re Gonna Miss This,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “Songs About Me,” “Every Light In the House,” “Just Fishin’” and “Hillbilly Bone,” recorded with Blake Shelton.
Longmire said, “I saw him Thursday night in Maryville at the Clayton Center, and he puts on an awesome, outstanding show.”
The process to find a performer for the 2018 concert series began during Charlie Daniels’ 2017 concert series performance, said Longmire.
“It actually started while Charlie was onstage at this year’s Tomato Festival,” he said. “About halfway through the set, I began talking to the agent behind the stage about the 2018 concert. He threw out some names, and I thought Trace Adkins would be a really great fit for us to come behind Charlie. Charlie did such a great job for us.”
A member of the Grand Ole Opry and a Grammy-nominated performer, Adkins has also ventured into acting, portraying a biker in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” and a tattoo artist in “Mom’s Night Out.” He is a staunch supporter of the Wounded Warrior Program and the American Red Cross, serving as spokesman for both.
Sponsors for the 2018 concert series are still needed. “Sponsors are what get the entertainers here. That’s what gets us the show,” Longmire said.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the 2018 concert should contact Longmire.
Longmire, Grainger Today, Alan Williams, Anchor/Reporter at WVLT Channel 8, 96.7 Merle FM, and Country Legends 93.3 FM are promotional sponsors of the Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series and will provide updated information regarding the concert and Tomato Festival events as it becomes available.