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That One Magical Night at the South Dakota State Fair

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The 2017 South Dakota State Fair begins August 31. Big and Rich, Justin Moore, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more will be there and its going to be a great time!

It was just a couple years ago that Kenny Rogers was at the State Fair. But i want to go farther back than that. Let’s hope into the time machine.

It was the late 1970’s and I was living in Aberdeen, working in Country Radio at KKAA. And the biggest star in the Country Music world was coming to the South Dakota State Fair.

No wait, that’s not right…let me rephrase that:

The biggest star in the entire musical world was coming to the South Dakota State Fair.

Kenny Rogers.

Top Ten Kenny Rogers Songs

It seems a bit quaint now I suppose, that the biggest musical stars in the world would play a State Fair. But they did. In fact, the biggest Country Stars in the world played County Fairs back there in them long ago days. I heard (and met) Country Stars like Bill Anderson (Hall of Famer), Tom T. Hall (Hall of Famer), Cal Smith and the Kendalls at the Brown County Fair when all of them were at the ‘Top Of Their Game’.

And now, the hottest of them all would be in Huron.

I suppose it’s easy to forget some of Kenny’s amazing career because so much is written and talked about concerning ‘The Gambler’. And rightly so. That song was not only a worldwide smash on both the Country and Pop charts (and other charts, too) it was made into movies. In fact, you can’t mention the name Kenny Rogers without immediately thinking ‘On a warm summer’s evening on a train bound for nowhere…’

But he had a great Pop career in the 1960’s with the First Edition, and had a massive hit with ‘Lucille’ prior to ‘The Gambler’ (and #1 hits with ‘Daytime Friends’ and ‘Love or Something Like It’.

But yes, it was the 1978 ‘The Gambler’ that became even more than a signature song. It became Kenny Rogers.

As i recall that day at the South Dakota State Fair, it was drizzly, cloudy, a bit rainy. But by evening, the skies had cleared and the Grandstand was full. I mean packed! And then he came out.

Not just a singer, Kenny was (and is) an entertainer. Weaving stories between the songs, there is one thing I remember more than anything else. When he said ‘It’s great to be in Huron tonight’, he actually meant it. I mean, you can tell, can’t you? You can tell when an artist gives the perfunctory ‘Gee, it’s great to be here’, and when they truly mean it? Maybe it’s that it comes from the heart.

Well, from Kenny, it came from the heart, just like his dozens of hits.

Kenny is preparing for his final all-star concert now, and the stage in Nashville will be filled with the biggest stars in Country Music. But for one (then) young guy in South Dakota, it’ll all come back to a magical night at the State Fair.

Oh, and sure, click on the video above and go ahead….sing along.


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