20 Questions

Aaron Green – Bringing Country Music to Ohio with The Country Fest

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20 Questions is our opportunity to talk with various people in the country music industry. Everyone from musicians and singers, to DJ’s and event producers.

This month we talk to Aaron Green, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of The Country Fest. The three-day Country Music Festival returns for their eighth year this June 22-24 at Clay’s Park Resort in North Lawrence, Ohio.

  1. Where did the idea for The Country Fest come from?

“The Country Fest idea came from a session of brainstorming. My business partner Joel had gotten laid off, and I was waiting to graduate from college. We would front porch sit, and just come with different business ideas. I read a few books, made some phone calls. I pitched it to Joel, we both really liked it, and Joel said get some meetings and I’ll go. The rest is kind of history.”

2. How did it come to be at Clay’s Park Resort in North Lawrence, Ohio?

“We decided on Clay’s Park because we both were familiar with the park, and I attended Alive there for many years. We saw they announced a moved to Atwood, we hoped there would be an opportunity at Clay’s.”

3. How many years has it been for The Country Fest?

“We are entering our 8th year.”

4. Do you remember what it was like that first year and how does it compare to today?

“Well, we knew nothing about event management, or live music production. The stage used to be an old barn, and have two sheets of plywood for a dock. I can’t even compare the differences, it night and day. We have since built a new concrete/steel stage, moved to electronic ticketing, and even our own box office. We launched the company in Joel’s spare bedroom. Just me, him and a phone from the dollar store. The worst part about the old days were, that we packed the tickets and licked the envelopes. I think my lips are still chapped. I don’t miss those days.”

5. What were some of the artists that first year?

“We had Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Phil Vassar, Billy Currington, Neal McCoy, and few more our first year. We refer to Dierks as the “Godfather” to Country Fest Ohio because he gave us our break. He put us on the map, and we will always be grateful for that.”

6. I know weather plays a big part in the success of the event. How has the weather been for the event over the year’s?

“Weather is a risk, but it’s part of any outdoor concert. The majority of people have already committed to the event by the time weather is accurate. I try not to worry to much about it. We have been blessed with more good days then bad, just a few storms, nothing we couldn’t regroup from.”

7. What have been some of the most memorable additions to The Country Fest that weren’t a part of the event I the beginning?

“The stage improvement was a game changer for us, it allowed us to handle any production. Sponsors. We have great sponsors, and local companies that support Country Fest Ohio, that have really helped us grow.”

8. After the end of The Country Fest, when do you start working on the next year’s event?

“We actually start planning the next one about 14-15 months in advance.”

9. It has to be a huge job to organize the artists and their schedules and times they arrive and such? How tough is that and who handles the stage management?

“We actually have a partner company that handles artists, schedules and advancing for us. We really spend our time leading our team and making sure consumers are taken care of.”

10. The event itself is massive when it comes down to security, vendors, camping and the show itself. What always seems to be the biggest challenge?

“The event is massive, but luckily we have been doing it long enough now, it’s kind of a well oiled machine. I would say the hardest part is safety and security. Consumers tend to not like change, but all the changes we make are try to keep everyone safe as the event grows.”

11. You changed the weekend that The Country Fest is held on this year. How did that help in getting the artists you want to perform?

“I don’t know if helps. We really don’t base our dates on artist’s availability. We try to stay away from the first weekend in June and away from the 4th of July.”

12. How many people worked at The Country Fest/Project Live in the beginning and how many employees are there now?

“It started as just Joel and I. We are up to 4 office staff, and when busy season gets here it will grow to 6. We are really a family company, our wives, parents, siblings, friends and family are a vital part of event staff.”

13. I know you have plenty of staff on site at the event, how many volunteers and staff does it take to put on the three-day event?

“We use different organizations, volunteers and paid staffer for the event but I would estimate 350-400 staff.”

14. What are some of the biggest challenges behind the scenes during the event?

“The biggest challenges are permitting, camper placement and safety protocol.”

15. What are some of the new features/attractions at this year’s event?

“We have added local favorite Pizza Oven to vendor row, and a 90 ft. Gondola Wheel of Lights, that has been a staple of Bonaroo for many years.”

16. You have had some great acts perform at The Country Fest. Do you have any that just stand out because you liked them, or they put on a great show?

“Oh, that’s a tough one. My favorite performances was probably Dierks in 2009, Luke Bryan in 2012, Florida Georgia Line in 2012 and Eric Church last year. We tried to have Eric for 7 years in a row, and finally got him there, and I was just happy for the fans.”

17. What acts are you really excited about at this year’s event?

“I would say I’m excited for Blake Shelton. He really doesn’t tour like the other acts. He hasn’t played Cleveland/Akron Market since 2013. Also, Travis Tritt, he’s a legend and someone who has played on our stage before.”

18. What is your favorite part of The Country Fest?

“My favorite part is right before the headliner each night, watch the fans excitement grow. I also try to watch the first song and opening at the front of house because it’s the best view in the house.”

19. How is the camping at the event? What other things can people do at Clay’s Park while they stay there for the week?

“The camping is great. Tents, RV’s, buses we have it all. If you are thinking about coming, camping really sets us apart from every other concert. You can also use the water park, volleyball courts, and other outdoor activities that Clay’s offers, it’s all included with any ticket.”

20. What advice can you give to the novice The Country Fest attendee about coming to the event?

“We are an all GA (general admission) show, we have a huge pit for standing room only, you can wait all day and get close as you want, or you can bring in your lawn chairs, and sit on the hillside. There is not a bad view anywhere, its different then most places you go. If you can camp, it’s the real Country Fest experience.”

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