LIVE OAK — Four days of pure country music joy ended Saturday at the 28th annual Suwannee River Jam at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park with a day filled with some of country music’s legends, the US Air Force Max Impact Rock/Country Band, a patriotic salute to the military and law enforcement and up and coming Florida and South Georgia artists.
As the last day moved into the last performances with A Thousand Horses, Gretchen Wilson and country music legend Hank Williams Jr., many fans were saying the Suwannee River Jam is a treasure for country music fans.
They mentioned this weekend of camping, fun, meeting new people, seeing old friends at the SRJ each year, seeing new artists and those everyone loves, is a highlight in their lives they look forward to each year. Their enthusiasm showed throughout this fabled event held the first weekend in May at SOSMP.
A Thousand Horses and Wilson brought marvelous performances opening for Williams. Wilson had the audience screaming and cheering her on as she brought a terrific performance as expected.
Then there was THE Hank Williams Jr. A legend in country music, Williams did not disappoint. Due to expected rain moving in, he went on early to make sure his fans got what they expected and ramped it up all evening, bringing a spectacular performance and excitement for his adoring fans.
Saturday at the 2019 Jam was truly a day to remember. It dawned bright and beautiful…and hot.
The main stage opened at 4:30 p.m. with a tribute to honor all service men and women and law enforcement. Stage manager Charles Cornett introduced Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John, who spoke on the value of service to our country and communities. He introduced Live Oak’s National Guard Brigadier General/Assistant Adjutant General Joint Force Headquarters St. Augustine Paul B. Chauncey III. The General spoke regarding service to our country and asked all who have or are serving the USA to stand and be recognized. Many men and women stood around the large Jam Field and received applause and later many “Thank you for your service” comments from other guests. Among those standing to be recognized was US Air Force twice wounded veteran Lester M. Hall, Omaha, Nebraska, who with his wife Mary traveled to Live Oak all the way from Omaha to attend the SRJ for the second year in a row.
A special part of this opening was the beautiful young artist Brooke Spencer, 10, Saint Johns, wowing the audience as she sang the National Anthem while two young men, Nolan Hamm, 18 of Bushnell, and Luke Bosely, 7 of Lake City, removed their cowboy hats and respectively stood at attention holding American flags. It brought tears and cheers afterward.
Next up was the U.S. Air Force Max Impact Rock/Country Band, which rocked the Jam audience with terrific music and exciting, talented band members who left nothing behind as they performed to the cheers of the audience. Tech Sgt. Nalani Quintello, lead female singer for the band, was finally home again at the SOSMP, but this time performing on the main stage. Quintello, originally of Orange Park, is a much loved SOSMP “family” member who performed in the Music Hall and 1st Street Music Stage from age 14 until she joined the Air Force at 19. She was welcomed home with cheers from the audience and later with hugs and tears from her very large SOSMP “family.”
The 1st Street Music Stage kicked off at 1 p.m. with Hamm. Known for his old country and deep voice, Hamm just wowed the audience with his performance, setting the bar for all those to come after him. And those were Savannah Faith Band, Suwannee Sweethearts (Sadie Miller, Katie O and Brooke Spencer), Godiva, Lyndie Burris Knowles, Austin Park Band and Uncle Kracker.
The Suwannee Sweethearts just about stole the show as these 10,11 and 13-year-old young ladies performed. Not to be outdone, all the other artists were terrific and so happy to be part of the SRJ.
Savannah Faith Band of Kentucky ended this year’s Jam performances by taking the stage to entertain in the Music Hall beginning at midnight May 4.
It was sad to say it was over, but the good news is the 2020 Jam is coming.