It all started with a website about “life in the Big O” (short for Owensboro). The website didn’t last, but the seed had been planted that eventually became Big O Entertainment, promoters of the Big O Music Festival.
“We were working with a local radio station to promote the website and they suggested that we have a big event to bring attention to the website,” recalled Big O Entertainment promoter Steve Terry. The event they came up with was “Rockin’ the Runway,” an outdoor concert held on the runway at the airport, which was headlined by 80’s rockers Loverboy. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but Terry says they did learn a lot from that first event, and made many great connections that paid off in the future.
Next, the organizers turned their attention to booking country music acts, relocated to Reid’s Orchard, and changed the name to “Big O Music Festival.” That combination seemed to work out much better.
“Jason Aldean headlined the first Big O in 2009, which really put us on the map,” Terry said. “We booked him at just the right time.” In ’09, Aldean was on his way up the charts to becoming the superstar he is today, which set the precedent for big-name headliners the following years, including Gary Allen, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, and Hank Williams, Jr.
Reid’s Orchard seems to be the perfect fit for hosting Big O. “It has the feel we were looking for,” Steve explained. “Plus, they’re set up nicely for a one-day event; traffic can get in and out easily, there’s a lot of parking, their field makes a great venue, and the Reids are such a great family to work with.”
Now in its seventh year, the festival has found its identity – and its crowd.
Last year, attendance reached 12,000, and by every indication, that number should increase this year. “We try to reach further every year with our marketing,” Terry said. “That’s one of the things I think we do very well.” Big O posted on their Facebook page on July 11 that 85% of VIP tickets were already sold out.
The other key to success is making sure those crowds always have a good time. Terry says their number one goal is to provide good entertainment and a good time, and it’s a good bargain on top of that. “At six acts for $50, when you look at our lineup and compare it to similar music festivals around the country, I think anyone would have a hard time finding a better value.”
Fans agree, especially on social media. Each year, Facebook and Twitter are abuzz with posts of pictures and comments from the festival. The Facebook page now has over 32,000 likes and a 4.9 rating (out of 5) from 202 reviews.
“I think by now, people know what Big O is, but they don’t really understand the magnitude of it until they come and experience it.” That’s why Steve and his team work hard every year to make “the party of the year” the best it can be, so new people will come and invite their friends to join them next year.
This year’s lineup includes returning fan favorite Jake Owen, multi-award winner Travis Tritt, Corey Smith, The Lacs, Chris Stapleton, and newcomer Ray Scott. Owen, the headliner in 2013 and again this year, performed in 2011 in an afternoon slot.
Reid’s Orchard is located at 4812 Hwy 144 in Owensboro. The gates open at noon, and the music kicks off at 1 p.m. Concessions and merchandise will be available.
Tickets and t-shirts are available for purchase on the website, www.bigomusicfest.com or at Maloney’s Pizza and Wings (3030 Highland Pointe Dr). General admission seating is open-field seating. Fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. VIP admission includes a chair under the VIP tent, free water, short lines to food vendors, and front-of-the-stage access. Purchasing 8-10 VIP tickets guarantees a table and chairs for your party.