This article originally appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine.
Each year in early June, semi trucks filled with concert equipment descend on Jam Ranch in Mack, Colorado. Awaiting their arrival are small crews of sound engineers, stage hands, and festival organizers. They’ll spend the next several days busily sorting and assembling the main stages, sound systems, and general framework for Country Jam.
For nearly three decades Country Jam crews have transformed the open ranch land off I-70 exit 11 into one of the largest country music festivals in the U.S. Featuring top country music stars and attracting thousands of music fans from across the country for a four-day honky tonk, Country Jam is the premier live music event in Western Colorado.
Thousands of work hours go in to pulling off the Jam, many of which are supplied by local crews tirelessly working behind the scenes to make sure every aspect of the event runs smoothly.
This year, for the first time in the festival’s history, Snob Productions, a Grand Junction based production company, will handle all aspects of Country Jam. Audio, video, lighting, and staging will all be assembled from the ground up by Snob.
“We are super excited about Country Jam,” Snob Productions owner David Wall said. “It’s one of those events we’ve been working towards for a number of years. We’ve built up our reputation with the organizers and they’ve put their trust in us to run the event. It’s also cool to keep that contract local and that money local.”
Planning for this year’s Jam has been in the works essentially since last year’s event. Wall and crew have been meticulously ramping up effort as the event date gets closer and will use roughly 20 – 30 employees, a majority of which are local based.
“I’ve worked some different [live] events and have seen it all, good and bad,” longtime Country Jam stagehand and stage manager Vernon Walker said. “We are pretty lucky to have a solid local crew that’s been doing it for a long time. Without them the show couldn’t happen.“
West Middle School principal by day, music fan boy by night, Walker has been working the Jam since 1998. Building the main structure, providing grunt labor for the performers’ tour crew, troubleshooting tech and audio issues, even playing tour guide to Chris LeDoux and suggesting which local golf course to play, is all part of the job.
“Being around live music really attracted me to the job. There are few things cooler than live music. Seeing what goes into putting off a show like this is addictive,” Walker said.
Once all the structures are built and the festival gates open, local crews stick around to help shuttle gear during set changes, protect equipment from inclement weather, operate spotlights, and take on any unanticipated task that needs to be completed. While the performers get all the attention, it’s the anonymous local crews who work to ensure fans and performers have a great Country Jam experience.
Country Jam 2019 is June 13-16, and features headliners Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Little Big Town, and Alabama. Tickets are available at countryjam.com.
Photo courtesy of Country Jam.