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Jake Owen and Chris Janson give a potent one-two punch of superstar country music to the 2016 HerrinFesta Italiana lineup, which was officially released today. They will serve as bookends for the five-day celebration, which kicks off on May 26 and concludes on Memorial Day.

Sandwiched between the country standouts will be iconic rockers Foreigner, 3 Doors Down and a Saturday night headbanger spectacular featuring Great White, Dokken, FireHouse and Tom Keifer, former frontman and lead guitarist for Cinderella.

“We are pushing the envelope a little this year,” says HerrinFesta President Cris Trapani. “When the entertainment committee was able to lock down a superstar like Jake Owen on the opening night, it became obvious that we were going to step up our game and try to make this the best across-the-board booking we've ever been able to put together.”

Founded in 1991, past performers at the festival have included Luke Bryan, the Dixie Chicks, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and hometown hero David Lee Murphy. Many marquee rock, alternative and blues acts, including the late Snooky Pryor, a legendary delta blues harmonica player from Ullin, have appeared at the festival.

Music in HerrinFesta's formative years was played on a makeshift semi-trailer stage. Today, the high-tech stage configuration rivals any used by huge festivals in major cities. The commitment to excellence was rewarded in 2014 when the festival won the Governor's Award for Best Festival in Illinois.

Trapani says there are eight major committees that plan the 37 events that comprise the annual festival. He says it takes a “small army” of several hundred volunteers to staff the event.

“Everyone pours their heart and soul into this thing. We work hard to make it better every year. The whole thought process is to showcase not only Herrin, but all of Southern Illinois,” Trapani says.

The 34-year-old Owen is a Florida native. His career plan A was to qualify for the PGA tour. He won his first golf tournament at 15, but a nasty skiing injury that required reconstructive shoulder surgery erased that option. While recovering, he learned to play guitar and developed a loyal following at clubs surrounding Florida State University.

His entrance into the country music world is not typical. On his first day relocating to Nashville, he went into a bank to open a savings account. He struck up a conversation with a teller, gave her a demo and was soon contacted by Warner/Chappell Music.

Thompsonville songwriter Kendell Marvel played a key role in Owen's early days in Music City. Marvel co-wrote six songs on Owen's first album, including debut single “Yee Haw.” He also collaborated with Owen on “Startin' With Me” and “Don't Think I Can't Love You.” Owen also topped the Billboard charts with back-to-back singles “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone With You.”

Owen will release his fifth studio album later this year and his new single “American Country Love Song” drops Monday.

3 Doors Down is best known for its 2000 single “Kyptonite,” in addition to “When I'm Gone” and “Here Without You.” The group will release its sixth album, “Us And The Night,” on March 11.

Foreigner dominated the rock charts for more than a decade, starting in 1977, with classic hits: “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero.”

The 29-year-old Janson, a native of Perryville, Missouri, is nominated for New Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The awards will be announced April 3 on CBS. He also is nominated by the ACM for Single Record of the Year for his career-launching single “Buy Me A Boat.”

Before breaking out as a solo artist in 2016, Janson was already firmly established in Nashville. His vocals were first displayed in 2009 on duets with the critically acclaimed Holly Williams. He is a very successful songwriter, inking “Truck Yeah” for Tim McGraw and the title cut of Justin Moore's “Off The Beaten Path” album. He has had tunes cut by Randy Houser, Frankie Ballard, Jerrod Niemann and LoCash.

The complete entertainment schedule for the 'Festa is as follows:

  • May 26, Owen and opening act F-150;
  • May 27, 3 Doors Down with American Lion and Lori's Puppets;
  • May 28, Keifeer, Great White, FireHouse and Dokken;
  • May 29, Foreigner with special guests Sinical and Mr. Swamp Fox and
  • May 30, Janson with local favorite Murphy 500 and Amelia Eisenhauer, originally of Du Quoin, fresh off her appearance on American Idol.

Tickets for the Owen concert will be $27 in advance and $30 after April 22. A pit pass is available for $40. All other shows are $22 in advance and $25 after April 22, or opt for the $35 pit pass. Visit www.herrinfesta.com to make a purchase or for additional information.

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

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