Before the final cable had been rolled up and the last speaker packed away at HerrinFesta Italiana last May, hard-thinking organizers had already started planning for the next year.

The daunting task facing the entertainment committee was to gaze into an enormous pool of talent across all genres of music and pluck out the five names capable of drawing the biggest crowds for the popular festival, while staying within established budget criteria.

Highlighting the event this year will be a couple of budding country music superstars, Florida Georgia Line and Justin Moore, combined with legendary classic rock band The Guess Who, alternative metal rocker Papa Roach and popular cover band Hairbanger’s Ball.

“The committee put in a lot of time and research and came away with some great bands with enormous potential,” said Jim Gentile, executive director of HerrinFesta. “These are the type of stars that will allow HerrinFesta to continue to provide high quality entertainment at the premier festival in Southern Illinois.”

Instead of just a couple people having input on the annual roster, HerrinFesta designates the responsibility to a larger group. They sift through page after page of suggested acts, meeting multiple times before the calendar even flips to the next year.

HerrinFesta President Chris Trapani said it’s a grueling process to find the perfect combination of performers with the ability to draw the biggest crowds.

“We’re very happy with the lineup we’re bringing to ‘Festa this year,” Trapani said. “No matter what kind of music you like, we’ve got a top-notch band for you.”

In the past, HerrinFesta has rolled the dice and locked up virtually unknown talent, confidently projecting massive career growth between the time a contract is inked in November or December and HerrinFesta in late May. The strategy worked incredibly well with the Dixie Chicks, Luke Bryan and Jake Owen. The hope is for a big payoff with Florida Georgia Line.

Since committing to a Memorial Day appearance at Herrin Festa on May 27, Florida Georgia Line reached No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart with debut release “Cruise.” The duo has also been nominated for two prestigious awards by the Academy of Country Music.

FGL has been nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year by the ACM, along with Big &Rich, Love and Theft, Thompson Square and Sugarland. The winner will be announced during a live presentation from Las Vegas on April 7.

In maybe a more important category, FGL is battling Brantley Gilbert and Jana Kramer for New Artist of the Year. The duo has already successfully advanced through one round of the fan-voted competition by winning for best new duo or group.

Florida Georgia Line was formed by a couple of songwriters, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, while attending Belmont University in Nashville. In a short time, they have graduated from being unknown students to close friends after marathon writing sessions, and now they’re an unstoppable force on the country music scene.

“It’s safe to say it’s been a whirlwind for us,” Hubbard said. “It’s been awesome.”

The ride started July 16, when they inked a contract with the Republic Nashville record label, part of the Big Machine Label Group with Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire.

In the second half of last year, they toured with Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert and Jake Owen.

They released their debut album “Here’s to the Good Times” on Dec, 4. The first single, “Cruise,” has been certified platinum for selling more than 1 million units. Follow-up single “Get Your Shine On” is currently climbing the charts.

Justin Moore, another member of the Big Machine Label Group, will perform at HerrinFesta on May 26. His long hit list includes “Bait a Hook,” “Backwoods,” “‘Til My Last Day” and a pair of No. 1 singles, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” and signature tune “Smalltown U.S.A.”

Moore performed a 45-minute show over the weekend near Turn 4 at the Daytona 500 to help Crown Royal spread the word about the “Your Hero’s Name Here” program, which will rename the Brickyard 400 race in Indianapolis on July 28.

The 28-year old Arkansas native migrated to Nashville in 2002. A well-known industry insider promised to give him a record deal if Moore would just be patient. The wait was six years and his debut single “Back That Thing Up” barely charted at No. 38, but he soared to the top of the charts with follow-up “Smalltown U.S.A.” and has been making a huge impact in Music City since 2008.

Hard-rocking Papa Roach with take the HerrinFesta stage on May 25. Behind the lead vocals of Jacoby Shaddix, the band made a huge national impact with the 2000 release of triple-platinum album “Infest.” Through the years, the band has sold more than 18 million albums.

Early in the career of Papa Roach, the band was well known for its rap-rock. Shaddix has said the sound of the group has evolved to a more hardcore rock sound and that rap in no longer included in live shows.

Papa Roach is best known for songs like “Last Resort,” “She Love Me Not,” “Scars,” “Kick In The Teeth” and “Getting Away With Murder.” The band is currently on tour promoting 2012 album “The Connection.”

The Guess Who are rock ‘n’ roll icons, and 1970 classic “American Woman” is an important piece of genre’s fabric. Other hits by the group include “These Eyes,” “No Time,” “Clap for the Wolfman” and “Share the Land.” The band will perform at HerrinFesta on May 24.

The Chicago-based Hairbanger’s Ball will be out to make a statement to the opening night HerrinFesta crowd on May 23. Specializing in the big-hair sounds of Bon Jovi, Van Halen and others, the band was rained out at Herrin two years ago and last year was stymied by suffocating heat.

Tickets for Papa Roach, Justin Moore and Florida Georgia Line will be $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Prices for The Guess Who will be $13 in advance and $15 at the door. The Hairbanger’s Ball tickets are $10 at the door and $8 in advance.

At this time, tickets are not available. Those interested can track ticket sales information at www.herrinfesta.com.

VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or vincehoffard@yahoo.com.

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