The Lake County Fair in Crown Point has been a highlight of region summers for generations. The tradition continues as the 160th year kicks off this morning.
Over the next 10 days, the fair a lot of excitement. And there will be plenty of free music at the Heritage Stage and the Radio One Communications Stage, both located just west of Gate 2.
Today’s "Sixth Annual Battle of The Midway" runs 4 to 9 p.m. as six young regional groups compete for a variety of prizes, including a professional video production package from The Spot Studio in Schneider, a recording package from Thunderclap Studio in Hammond and trophies.
Returning is 2011 “Battle of The Midway” champion Gerhart, a Dyer quintet with an old-school classic rock sound. Vocalist Kevin Badten describes his band’s sound as “the psychedelic energy of Led Zeppelin, the sinister guitar licks of Black Sabbath, heart-pounding excitement of AC/DC and the raw power of Metallica.”
Badten’s rockin’ mates — Jake Kamykowski (bass), Matt Kamykowski (guitars), Drew Burrell (guitars) and Nick Smith (drums) — say they are ready to face off against this year’s rough and ready challengers: Merrillville alt-rock trio Newsince; Rensselaer’s modern rock trio Stud Fox; Lowell’s heavy alt-grunge quartet Sudden Suspension; Wanatah-based pop-rock quartet Vacation To Earth; and Crown Point’s classic-meets-modern rockers The Concept.
Each group performs a 30-minute set. Today’s battle winner returns to the Radio One stage tomorrow for a paid performance as opening act for the region’s mid-‘60s garage rock icons Oscar & The Majestics. The group hailed from Gary and became contemporaries of acclaimed Chicago-bred bands like The Buckinghams and The Shadows Of Knight.
From 1963 to 1968, they were a "singles" group with a string of 45rmps released through a variety of labels — Ark Records, Soulful Records, Score Records — during their time in the national spotlight. The complete 1960s recordings of Oscar & The Majestics (most recorded at Chicago’s legendary Chess Studios) were reissued last year on CD and as a limited-edition vinyl LP by national archival label Sundazed Records.
“We are extremely excited to be playing live again and having the opportunity to perform at the Lake County Fair,” said guitarist/vocalist and namesake Oscar Hamod, who spent his years out of the spotlight as a school teacher at T.F. South in Lansing, along with his bass-playing brother Sam Hamod of the group. Performing with the Hamods are original members rhythm guitarist Robert Wheeler and drummer Vince Jacim. FYI: WWW.OSCARANDTHEMAJESTICS.COM and WWW.SUNDAZED.COM
The Radio One Communications stage will feature Chicago-based Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute act Sammy Ray & Texas Flood on stage during the fair’s annual “Bike Night” on Aug. 10.
Local hopefuls also get a chance to shine on the Radio One stage during the “Acoustic Open Mic Night” from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday between scheduled showcase sets by a pair of professional artists —singer/songwriter Jef Sarver at 7 p.m. and acoustic duo Nickel & Dime at 8 p.m.
Country music visits the Radio One stage three times. On Sunday and Aug. 12 for the Indiana 105 Texico Country Music Showdown, a national talent competition where starry-eyed locals hope to climb the first rung of the ladder to showbiz success.
“These are the semi-finals and finals rounds of the Showdown,” said Showdown host Steve Zana, morning radio personality of local radio station Indiana 105. “Budding country artists from across the area will perform in hopes of moving on to the competition’s next level in Indianapolis.”
Country will also be heard Thursday, as Bernie Glim & The Country Roads Band return for a third year to headline the fair’s annual “Salute To America’s Heroes Day.”
Country and acoustic music is also featured daily at The Heritage Stage, where the schedule features bluegrass groups Fast Acting Bluegrass (tonight) and Fall Creek (Sunday); accapella standards vocal group Calumet Corner Chorus of Sweet Adelines (Monday); Americana/folk duo Ron And John (Tuesday); bluegrass group The High Country Strings (Wednesday); and solo bluegrass/country artist Acie Cargil (Thursday).
On Aug. 10, visitors to the Heritage will find Celtic music trio String Fever performing a unique blend of Irish jigs, shanties and folk songs. The group formed just after the turn of the millenium after playing open mic nights at a Christian coffee house.
“We were just a couple of friends who’d hang out and play there every week,” said Mark Janiga, a passionate hammered dulcimer player and one third of String Fever, along with multi-instrumentalist Paul Horgash and acoustic guitarist John Roth.
Flintlock’s musical versatility — bluegrass, classic country, rockabilly, folk and even Cajun styles — has made them a popular attraction at the Heritage stage for many years. They are the only artist booked for two Heritage performances, Saturday and Aug. 11.
Tennessee-born guitarist/vocalist Rick Carter founded Flintlock as a bluegrass band in 1997 and since then has released seven full-length albums.
The band’s fair performances will feature some of the 13 tracks from their new CD, “Roadhouse Shadows,” which finds the group — Gabe Janky (banjo/dobro/vocals), Rick Veras (fiddle/mandolin), John Costa (harmonica/guitar), and Jack Virgin (bass/guitar/vocals) — branching out with covers including James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues,” Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me,” and Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.”