MORRISTOWN - In a line from Joe Zelek's Jamboree in the Hills theme song, the Mount Pleasant singer/songwriter makes note of the torrential storms that have become synonymous with the four-day festival during the past 35 years, thanking the rain for helping the show grow over the years.
By Zelek's standards, this year's Jamboree should grow by leaps and bounds, as Thursday's show was delayed nearly 45 minutes by a string of thunderstorms with lightning that made its way through the area.
Several concert-goers chose to wait out the weather, sitting in the crowd covered by tarps and ponchos. Others took shelter under tents and awnings around the grounds, though the seating area filled quickly once Zelek took the stage at 4:45 p.m. to play songs from his new record, fittingly titled "Even In The Rain." Zelek acknowledged the irony during his set.
JAMBOREE — Jason Aldean was the featured artist as the first day of Jamboree in the Hills 2012 came to a close on Thursday. While rain greeted the Joe Zelek Band, the opening act, the rain stayed away for most of the rest of the evening.
-- Fred Rossano
"It's a dream come true to be out here," Zelek said from the stage. "Thanks for making a hometown boy's dream come true."
Zelek's set included his Jamboree-themed song, which he told the crowd he wrote as a "snapshot" of the festival for his generation. He was joined during his set by Bellaire native Katie Orlofske, who returned for Jamboree from her new home in Los Angeles.
Orlofske also sang the national anthem, followed by the customary releasing of red, white and blue balloons. Members of the Army National Guard in Steubenville were on hand to present the colors.
JAMBOREE IN THE HILLS:
-- Today: Drake White, 4:15 p.m.; Aaron Lewis, 5:05 p.m.; Jamey Johnson, 6:20 p.m.; Charlie Daniels Band, 7:50 p.m.; Lynyrd Skynyrd, 9:35 p.m.
-- Saturday: Ron Retzer with 11/70, 11:20 a.m.; Brother Trouble, 12:05 p.m.; Tristen Smith, 1:10 p.m.; Edens Edge, 2:25 p.m.; Lorrie Morgan, 3:40 p.m.; Neal McCoy, 5:10 p.m.; Eli Young Band, 6:40 p.m.; Little Big Town, 7:55 p.m.;
Rascal Flatts, 9:25 p.m.
-- Sunday: Michael Stanley, 11 a.m.; Blackberry Smoke, 12:15 p.m.; Lee Brice, 1:30 p.m.; David Nail, 3 p.m.; Ronnie Dunn, 4:30 p.m.
Jamboree fans won't catch a break today, as similar weather is expected.
Today, festivities kick off with the 4 p.m. opening ceremonies. Drake White takes the stage first, followed by Aaron Lewis and Jamey Johnson. The Charlie Daniels Band keeps the "outlaw country" theme going, followed by fireworks before Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd close the night.