By Emily Finton and Brooklynn Donachie
Jamboree in the Hills (JITH) was an economic staple from 1977 to 2018 in Belmont County. Every year, gas stations and businesses surrounding the area would order extra necessities for JITH, such as beer, cigarettes and cases of water. Local restaurants prepared for the often standing-room-only crowds of hungry concert-goers. But this year a new festival will take it’s place.
Live Nation bought the 29-year-old JITH in 2006, and over the years, things began to change.
- In 2016, Live Nation “rechristened” JITH to Jambo Country.
- Renamed the beloved redneck run, where fans would stampede against one another to secure a spot in front of the main stage.
- And a no cooler rule was enacted, which saw immediate uproar, resulting in a reversal before it could be carried out.
In November 2018, Live Nation announced that JITH would be on hiatus indefinitely. Then, its website was taken down, confirming the news for hundreds of loyal JITH attendees.
One Facebook user and JITH fan wrote about the hiatus, “I just still can’t believe it’s gone,” another wrote “The best thing in the valley, bring it back.”
Performer Neal McCoy, who entertained crowds at the festival for 21 years says he would use his time at JITH to reconnect with his family.
“He’s [My son’s] 24 years old and he’s never missed it. So, that was kind of an excuse for at least for us [my family] to get together in the middle of the busy summertime, we’d spend a few days together. They would come out and ride the bus with us and go to that [JITH], and now it’s kind of like we’re missing a small family reunion,” McCoy says.
For McCoy, the fans made the experiences the most memorable, and would often bring them up to the stage. Once he was even “baptized,” which is “where they pick me up by my feet, stick my head in a cooler.”
“I’d see a lot of those same faces every year. Who had been supporting me the entire time,”
McCoy says. “And all those folks there, they’re like a family to us.”
Local Businesses Left Out
Local restaurants, such as Schlepp’s Family Restaurant, which is located just down the road from the JITH campground, will also feel a void without the country music festival.
Schlepp’s is family-owned and would prepare weeks in advance for the few days of customers.
The customers to Schlepp’s, much like the fans to McCoy, became more like family. “A lot of people from around the world come to Jamboree, they come here too just for a ritual I guess. We always have a couple come from Australia every year, they was always here,” says Randy Lucas, a Schlepp’s employee.
Lucas says the thousands of customers could be seen coming in and out by the truckload, forming lines out the door after the redneck run. Schlepp’s also sold JITH T-shirts and beads. He, along with the other employees, attended the country concert every year. “I don’t think it’s really like set in yet. Maybe when July comes and you’re not hearing the Jamboree song and all that stuff, there’s going to be a lot of disappointment,” Lucas says.
However, where one fest falls, another may grow. In this case, just across the street from the JITH location.
Blame My Roots, at the Valley View Campground, hopes to rekindle JITH spirit in the third weekend of July.
“We’re excited that we’re able to, that we filled a void so quickly, that we were able to actually put this together. You know, Jamboree is a big community event as well. It does bring in people from all across the country, but it’s also a big community event for people that live in the Ohio Valley, and it’s something that’s been a part of us, a part of my family for 28 years,” says Chris Dutton, organizer of Blame My Roots. “We’re excited to continue the community event that is JITH and that whole feeling of what Jamboree was, and we’re excited that it is going to continue to be in the fabric of the valley.”
Blame My Roots will take begin on Thursday, July 18 at the Valley View Campgrounds, located at 43263 National Rd, Belmont, Ohio 43718.