MORRISTOWN - Giving local artists a stage to shine is as much apart of Jamboree In The Hills as the Redneck Run, squirt bottles and rainy weather. Artists like Joe Zelek and Brad Paisley caught some of their first breaks on the main stage with performances that let fans know bigger things were in store.
For Tristen Smith, who grew up on the Jamboree stage, Saturday was more than just a homecoming show. The 19-year-old St. Clairsville native made the trip back from Belmont University in Nashville to play the festival where he learned the ins and outs of performing.
A large Saturday afternoon crowd gave Smith a warm reception, as did the crowd of fans in the photo line who stayed for his entire set.
Photo by J.W. Johnson Jr.
Tristen Smith performs Saturday afternoon during Jamboree In The Hills.
"It was nice to see a little fan club down there, he said after the show. "Security was trying to push them out, but they weren't going anywhere."
Smith played several new songs he has written while signed with Big Machine Records, including "Hometown Throwdown," which he said is a reference to festivals like Jamboree In The Hills and the community that is formed each year.
"No matter where you're from, we're all here together having a great time," he told the crowd.
Smith was joined on stage by a band featuring musicians from Nashville, as well as guitarist Roger Hoard and Smith's father, Chad, on drums.
Saturday was Smith's second time as a billed artist, though he has played as a sidestage act and in 2007 joined Neal McCoy on stage during his set. McCoy gave Smith a shout-out during his early evening set, something Smith said he continues to be thankful for.
''I've never taken it for granted, and being out there is really just a prayer answered in more ways than I could imagine, he said.
Smith was preceded by local musicians Ron Retzer and 1170, followed by Brother Trouble. Saturday's acts also include Eden's Edge, Lorrie Morgan, Neal McCoy, Eli Young Band, Little Big Town and Rascal Flatts. Today is the final day of the JITH weekend. Opening ceremonies begin at 10:50 a.m., followed by Michael Stanley, Blackberry Smoke, Lee Brice, David Nail and headliner Ronnie Dunn.