Country Jam: Local Crews Help Build Event’s Success
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, stagehands, and festival organizers. They’ll spend the next several days busily sorting and assembling the main stages, sound systems, and the 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 stars and attracting thousands of 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 are required to pull off the Jam, and many 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 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 says. “It’s one of those events we’ve been working toward 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 his crew have been meticulously ramping up their efforts as the date gets closer, and will use roughly 20 to 30 employees, the majority of whom are local.
“I’ve worked some different [live] events and have seen it all, good and bad,” longtime Country Jam stagehand and stage manager Vernon Walker says. “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 fanboy by night, Walker has been working the Jam since 1998. Building the main structure, providing grunt labor for the performers’ tour crews, 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 on a show like this is addictive,” Walker says.
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.