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Steve Novotney Says, "JITH Not Dead, but on Life Support"

We collectively hated the whole "Jambo Country" proposal so much a former Belmont County commissioner rolled into meeting wearing his cowboy hat and pulling his red cooler as social media sites burned with anger.

Ownership was going to eliminate Sundays from the festival schedule, and that policy allowing the fans to roll in food and beer and other beverages would have vanished, too. The announcement about the first three performers, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean, and Lady Antebellum, wasn't close to enough to squelch a titanic tantrum that ultimately won the fans and positively impacted businesses two more years because the company, Live Nation, backed away from the idea.

But not now. Red ink, believe it or not, is a pet peeve when it comes to for-profit corporate America so when some accountant somewhere made an executive aware of the festival's deficit, decisions were made without an alternative being offered. According to Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas, Live Nation called local officials about the possibility of the now in-place hiatus and asked them for their advice.

And, this time around, policies about concessions change or we can all dig a deep campground grave for Jamboree In The Hills. It. Is. That. Simple. The insurance industry has changed drastically during the 42 years that JITH has been in the middle of that field because of the DUIs and the related car accidents, the reported sexual assaults, traffic issues, and complaints by residents.

Liability, after a plethora of lawsuits have assigned blame to both the public and private sectors, has guided us all to a rubberized or mulched America, and now it's hitting here … at OUR beer fest … where we once could set up our camp with as much acknowledged precaution and ignored danger as we wished. Our coolers could have been void of proper hydration and/or sustenance, but we were never babysat by the nice folks at the gate. No glass or liquor? "Have a good day."

And we've all replied, "Thank you," knowing we were getting away with the best deal in the entertainment industry. If you did not realize it, yeah, please do now. Even full-price tickets, at $225, was a steal even though the lineup waned the last decade. It became a headliner-and-the-rest event, let's be honest, but for that atmosphere and the venue freedom? Well, as a seasoned fan of live shows, I know I always felt like I was getting away with something every time I rolled that wagon in with a large cooler full of cans of Bud Light.

Thomas said his conversations have not included topics like permanent restrooms, paved sidewalks, or even the addition of a sheltered area for reserved seating, but the county commissioner did not rebuke the possibility of an improved list of performers.

"I hope everyone understands that the Live Nation folks called us, and they didn't have to do that," the commissioner explained. "As a for-profit, private company, they really don't owe us anything, but they do understand that this event is all about the traditions that the fans have created over the years.

"My impression is that they are willing to listen, but there's going to have to be changes that a lot of people aren't going to like," he added. "It comes down to whether or not we want this festival to come back in some form in 2020, so I hope something can be worked out because of how important this event is to local businesses, to county government, and to all of the fans of country music in the area."

Categories: Commentary