Music is returning to the hills

What began as a small music festival tucked away in the hills of Eastern Ohio in the mid-1970s has become one of the most important stops on the country music circuit.

When Jamboree in the Hills opens its four-day run in Morristown Thursday, it will mark the annual renewal of a tradition that attracts tens of thousands of music fans from across the United States and Canada. It’s the longest country music festival of its type.

It’s an example of big entertainment and big business coming together, and it offers the chance for fans of all ages and backgrounds to dress down in shorts and T-shirts, grab a cold beverage and enjoy many of country’s top contemporary acts as well as some all-time favorites.

The festival also provides a boost to the region’s economy, helping hotels and motels, restaurants, department stores and gasoline stations.

That’s very important, to be sure, but, when you get right down to it, Jamboree in the Hills always has been about the music, with the lineup evolving to reflect the changes the genre has undergone over the years. The 1977 lineup, for instance, included country standards Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, Barbara Mandrell, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hill, Mickey Gilley, June Carter Cash and music icon Johnny Cash. This year’s lineup will include area favorites Joe Zelek and Ron Retzer as well as Joe Diffie, Jason Michael Carroll, Diamond Rio, Neal McCoy, Katie Ohh, Keith Urban and Montgomery Gentry.

Other outdoor country music festivals have come and gone since 1977, but Jamboree in the Hills continues to thrive, and that’s a testament to the music -and, especially, the fans.

Jamboree in the Hills is a summer tradition, one that’s good for fans of country music, and one that’s good for our region’s economy.