It’s fair time in Merced County and the five-day run festivity is bringing a variety of entertainment to the stage.
The Merced County Fair opens tonight and runs through Sunday evening. Gates open at 5 p.m. tonight, Thursday and Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Fair admission is $5 and includes all the performances on the Outdoor Theatre. All shows are sponsored by Table Mountain Casino and Budweiser and start at 8:30 p.m.
Opening up the fair’s line-up is the Rhett Walker Band, a popular Christian alternative/Southern rock group currently on the charts with their album, “Come To The River.”
Rhett Walker, 25, describes the songs off the album as “wild oats” stories tempered by God’s grace. And Walker knows a few things about wild oats. Walker, the son of a preacher, fell into a slippery path in his teen years.
“I mixed with the rough crowd, got into fights and drugs. It wasn’t long before I was expelled from school – just always in trouble,” Walker said.
His parents sent him to a Christian school, where Walker met April. It wasn’t long before the teen lovers found themselves cast as expectant parents. Walker said to April, who is now his wife, “We’ve done everything wrong that we possibly can. Let’s do everything right from here on out.”
The couple was married and Walker rededicated his life to God and got his high school diploma. The couple welcomed their daughter and became active in the church where Walker began leading worship. As more opportunities opened up for him to lead worship at other churches and college campuses, he was able to stop working at the construction and factory jobs that helped pay the bills, and focus on music and songwriting. The next stop was Nashville, where the Rhett Walker Band started work on their first album.
“I’ve loved covering Passion songs as a worship leader, but I feel like some of the crazy things I’ve done and need to sing about don’t always fit that mold,” Walker said. “So I want to write music that isn’t really congregational worship but still inspires a movement that champions what grace really is.”
The second night of the fair will bring rock band Pablo Cruise to the stage. Pablo Cruise toured the world, sold several million albums and singles and became the first rock band to play the Grand Ole Opry. After seven albums and hit songs including “Don’t Want To Live Without It,” “I Want You Tonight,” “Cool Love,” “A Place In The Sun” and “I Go To Rio,” the band took a hiatus in 1986 that lasted more than 20 years.
Original vocalist David Jenkins joined up with Southern Pacific, a country rock band that was ahead of its time, with hits including, “Midnight Highway,” “New Shade of Blue” and “Honey I Dare You.” Since 1999, he has performed with Rock & Pop Masters, a group of the top singers from the 70s and 80s. He and some of the band’s members entertained US troops in Iraq in 2011.
Pianist and vocalist Cory Lerios turned his talents to film and TV after leaving Pablo Cruise in 1986. He wrote the music scores for 11 seasons of the TV series, “Baywatch,” as well as other shows including, “Days of Our Lives,” “Kim Possible,” “Max Headroom,” “Police Story,” and “Land Before Time.”
The band’s other members include original drummer, Steve Price, and newest member, Larry Antonino, a bassist and vocalist.
Rising Country artist Jason Michael Carroll will be performing on Friday night at the fair. Carroll has written some of his biggest hits, including back-to-back Top 5 singles, “Alyssa Lies,” and “Livin’ Our Love Song.” He wrote five songs on his debut album and three tracks on his second album, “Growing Up Is Getting Old.” That album debuted at No. 7 on Billboard’s country album sales chart and produced two hits including the Top 10 single, “Where I’m From” and the Top 20 song, “Hurry Home.”
He has kicked off concerts for some of the biggest names in country music including Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Trace Adkins, Martina McBride, Sugarland, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson and has performed several times at the Grand Old Opry.
His fans regularly approach the former Marine, husband and father of four with stories of how his music affects their lives.
“My songs speak so much to so many people,” Carroll said. “I really can’t take for granted what I’m doing, and I thank God every day I have the chance to keep doing it.”
Saturday night at the fair will see the return of Evolution: The Ultimate Tribute to Journey. From “Any Way You Want It,” “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Lights” to “Open Arms” and “Who’s Crying Now,” Evolution: The Ultimate Tribute to Journey, performs the music of Journey the way it’s meant to sound.
Jerrol Reavis, the founder of Evolution, has assembled a group of five talented musicians and singers from the Bay Area music scene, including lead singer, John Siino. Reavis promised each Journey member that the band would perform every one of their songs with the highest standards of accuracy, energy and professionalism. The result is a dynamic, high energy show that has audiences up and down the West Coast standing and singing every song at every venue.
The fair will close out Sunday with a performance from Korina Lopez, “La Dama De La Banda,” The Lady of The Band. Lopez will perform the music of her native Sinaloa in Northern Mexico.
The artist’s latest single, “Hasta Aqui,” (Up to Here), also known as “The Facebook Song,” is getting a lot of airplay and fans are uploading the video on YouTube. The popular song was written by Ariel Barreras, who also is from Sinaloa. The song is from her fifth and latest album, “No Me Compares,” (Don’t Compare Me). The album was produced by Latin Grammy award nominee, Danny Ramos, who has worked with several regional Mexican music stars including the late Jenny Rivera, Graciela Beltran and Yolanda Perez.
The Merced County fairgrounds are located at 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Merced.