Little Barrel Country Music Festival has Delaware music fans excited

NEW CASTLE — What started as a day of country music set to draw about 250 people to a park in Smyrna quickly has ballooned to an all-out festival in New Castle with 10 times the space and the hopes of 10 times the crowd.

The Little Barrel Country Music Festival, which originally was set to play Sam Kalb’s Picnic Park in Smyrna, now will be held at Blue Diamond Park on Hamburg Road, just off U.S. 13. — and organizers are as surprised as anyone.

“I’ve been floored by the whole thing,” said Dennis Carradin, president of The Trauma Survivors Fund, one of two charities that will benefit from the June 25 event, along with the 2/6 Marines Memorial March.

The idea for Little Barrel came when Kent County’s larger of two country music festivals were canceled earlier this year.

“Carl Pace, one of our directors, is a huge country music fan. He came to me and said ‘You know, both Big Barrel and Delaware Junction festivals were shut down. Why don’t we do our own festival?’” Mr. Carradin said.

“I like Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney as much as the next guy. So I said ‘Why not?’ Next thing you know it all snowballed with 5,000 people saying they are interested on Facebook. And at that point, it’s all about ‘OK, Let’s run with it.’”

Maryland-based country artist Sam Grow will headline June's Little Barrel Country Music Festival. (Submitted photo)

Maryland-based country artist Sam Grow will headline June’s Little Barrel Country Music Festival. (Submitted photo)

Little Barrel will take place on the Saturday night of the weekend Big Barrel was supposed to be happen prior to its cancellation. While they don’t have either Mr. Aldean or Mr. Chesney, who will be performing his own show that night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Little Barrel does have a roster of popular regional talent

Maryland singer Sam Grow, always a big draw at Dover’s Cowboy Up nightspot who just gave a free concert prior to Saturday’s XFINITY NASCAR race at Dover International Sppeedway, will headline the day, which starts at noon.

Other acts on the bill so far are Wesley Spangler, Country by Night, The Hung Jury Band, A Different Breed, Southern Drawl Delaware, Forsaken, Eleanor and the Roosevelts and Country Crossing.

Disc jockey Chris Arena will spin records in between acts.

“I’ve been surprised by the reaction — both positive and negative,” Mr. Carradin said.

“We’ve got some great artists but we’ve getting these comments saying ‘You need Brad Paisley or Jason Aldean.’ If we had a million dollars, we wouldn’t need to put on the festival in the first place.

“We’re calling this the ‘Small-Town Throwdown.’ Maybe next year we can be Double Barrel but we’re not there yet.”

Although fans shouldn’t expect to see headliners of the sort that Big Barrel or Delaware Junction would attract, Mr. Carradin says they shouldn’t be surprised to see the level of talent rise a bit more before June 25.

“I do have some feelers out to A- or B-level acts. So you never know. I may get a call in the next few days that someone bigger has signed on,” he said.

Blue Diamond Park, which, up until last year hosted motorsports events, provides a 25-acre venue with a natural amphitheater.

“It’s a fun little venue. Sam’s place is awesome but the interest started to blow us away and we knew we’d have to find somewhere bigger. Originally we were talking to Frightland (in Middletown) who turned us on to Blue Diamond.”

A benefit to a larger venue means that families are now invited to Little Barrel. Originally it was going to be a 21-and-over affair.

“I got messages saying ‘Are you kidding?’ Families aren’t allowed?’ We just didn’t have the space at first. We’ll have to get different wristbands for the 21-and-under crowd and hire more security but now we can open it up to families as well,” Mr. Carradin said.

Although The Trauma Survivors Fund has hosted charity events in the past, some involving music, this is the biggest they’ve pulled off yet. In order to help with the logistics, the organization has turned to a key Downstate source in Bob Harley, president of June Jam, the annual music festival in Houston, which will celebrate its 38th year on June 10.

“He has been a guru for us in giving us the guidance that we’ve needed,” Mr. Carradin said.

“He said ‘We’ve been doing this for 38 years. Let us help you’ And he’s just been incredible telling us to go here and look there for different things. His experience has been really helpful to us.”

Based in Wilmington, The Trauma Survivors Fund provides services at a national level to anyone affected by trauma and crisis.

A board-certified expert in traumatic stress, Mr. Carradin has responded to national disasters including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and the Navy Yard shootings.

“We cover 39 states and we want to cover all 50 by 2018. But our first love is Delaware,” Mr. Carradin said.

The 2/6 Marines Memorial March will take place Oct. 27 from Arlington National Cemetery to New Castle County Police Headquarters.

The 160-mile walk will be in honor of those in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, an infantry battalion based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who have been either killed in action or have died from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

General admission tickets to Little Barrel are $35; VIP tickets are $45, which includes a festival shirt, a food voucher and one beverage of choice; and Platinum VIP tickets are $75, which includes a festival shirt and access to the private VIP tent with food and beverage services. Four alcoholic beverages are also included with the ticket.

For tickets, visit LittleBarrelFestival.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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