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Jamboree in the Hills, also known as the "Super Bowl of Country Music," is an annual four-day-festival of country music in the rolling hills of Morristown, Ohio (about 1½ hours west of Pittsburgh, and 20 minutes west of Wheeling, West Virginia) in Belmont County. The concert, owned by parent company Live Nation, showcases a wide variety of new, veteran, and legendary musicians, and runs Thursday through Sunday every summer during the third week of July.
The program is a spinoff of the WWVA Jamboree. However, it does not share any affiliation with the current incarnation of the Wheeling Jamboree, which airs on WKKX. (For a time, Live Nation and WWVA were both owned by Clear Channel Communications, but Live Nation was spun off from Clear Channel shortly before WWVA canceled the Jamboree, ending the relationship between the two.)
Jamboree in the Hills (often abbreviated as JITH or "Jambo") began as a two-day outdoor music festival in July 1977 and was held at Brush Run Park near Morristown, Ohio. It was the concept of Glenn Reeves along with Jerry Brightman that brought it to fruition. It has since grown to a four-day, annual festival, bringing in more than 100,000 country music fans each year. Fans from all over the United States, and from many areas of the world, pitch tents and park campers on the hill above the amphitheater and all through the immediate region, filling camp grounds, front yards, and backyards alike, dragging wagons loaded with lawn chairs, beer, and plenty of ice.
The current outdoor amphitheater (the second site for the concert since 1977) is currently enhanced by several speaker towers and jumbotron TV screens, so even the fans at the top of the rolling hill can easily enjoy the show. Jamboree in the Hills is one of the largest and most celebrated annual country music events. The concert range is so large that it is home to its very own post office and on-site emergency ward staffed by East Ohio Regional Hospital that has, in the past, even delivered babies on the grounds.
The site is even host to a number of weddings each year. There is a photo aisle in front of the stage where fans can walk through and take snapshots of their favorite country music artists. In 2006, the barn-like stage used to showcase performers underwent a massive face lift. It was completely torn down and replaced with a bigger stage to better suit the hillside amphitheater. There is also an area on site where fireworks are shot off on a given night during the concert (traditionally, Saturday).
Usually country music stars are the main focus of the concert, but entertainers from other genres have also shared the stage over the years, including "Weird Al" Yankovic, The Beach Boys and the Steve Miller Band. The entire event has been carried on Wheeling radio stations 1170 WWVA and/or 98.7 WOVK, every year since it's inception, having originally grown out of WWVA's live Jamboree radio show. The show was simulcast on both stations for many years, but WOVK is now the sole radio home for the JITH broadcast. Portions of the show are also covered live on local TV station WTOV, aside from a few performers who decline to go on air (usually only one or two each year). Recent examples include Carrie Underwood (due to American Idol contracts) and Keith Urban. For the 2009 festival, only two days were broadcast locally.
Past performers include Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Sammy Kershaw, Travis Tritt, Alabama, Kenny Chesney, The Charlie Daniels Band, Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn and Merle Haggard.
Penned in 1978 by Mayf Nutter, the Jamboree in the Hills theme song is proudly played annually at the festival. The lyrics to the song describe the first Jamboree and the excitement that surrounded the event.
Recent years a new song, Jamboree in the Hills by Joe Zelek has been played throughout the event as an overall experience tune.
There are only a few seating arrangements or assigned places at the Jamboree site, referred to as lawn seats, which are green lawn chairs. Each morning during the event, hundreds of country music fans stampede through the gate with their blankets, tarps, and lawn chairs, and try to get a space as close to the stage as possible. This is often a muddy and chaotic event and has been dubbed over the years as "The Redneck Run." (videos available)
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Wear tennis shoes (Sheriffs usually enforce this and send those in sandals to the back of the line). This may be the only time during the week that you wear them, but they are well worth it. Always stretch before the run, and be wary of drunk runners and crashes. Any early injury can spell doom for the seats and everyone relying on you. Main Gate flys first at 8:00 am sharp, with gates 2, 3 and 4 opening shortly after. Devoted fans seek the gate line the night before, but a 6:00 am start is usually guaranteed a good spot. Lastly, protect yourself at all times because serious injury can result, and have a good time. Make sure your wallet (if you carry one) is secured. Tent stakes are not allowed to hold your tarp down, so plan accordingly—some people bring socks packed with sand, others gather rocks. The weather during the day sometimes can be windy which will disturb your tarp site. Fastening it down to the ground is a good idea. MOST OF THE TIME your tarp site will not be disturbed by Jambo goers, but some people aren't so courteous. Realize that your tarp may be moved or stolen when you are not inside the concert area.