When the organizers of the Palmetto for the Fourth of July Celebration started talking about who to bring in to headline this year's event, they were mostly talking about the same kind of classic rock and oldies bands they had turned to in years past.
"We were looking at KC and the Sunshine Band," said Jeff Burton, the director of the Palmetto Community Development Agency. "Heart was another possibility."
They were the kind of bands that had come to Palmetto on Independence Day over the past few years and had made the event so successful. Last year, it was the Village People and the Guess Who. Three Dog Night rocked the park in 2012 and Eddie Money the year before that.
But then, Burton said, it suddenly looked as though it was going to be possible to land Scotty McCreery.
Burton's first reaction was to ask, "Who's Scotty McCreery?"
His kids knew McCreery, though, and so did a lot of other people.
"We're getting a much bigger response from the public than we've ever had," Burton said. "We fully expect to break attendance records."
McCreery is a 20-year-old country singer who won the 10th season of "American Idol" three years ago. His first album, "Clear as Day," went platinum and spawned a couple of hit singles.
"It's the first year we've gone country," Burton said.
In just weeks, Burton has gone from not knowing who Scotty McCreery was to calling himself a McCreery fan.
"You listen to him and you hear George Strait," he said. "The voice that comes out of him is amazing."
Probably the happiest new development for a lot of people is that the Rotary Club is being permitted to sell beer and wine at the celebration, which has been alcohol-free until this year.
And the festival's still essentially free, but this year about 2,500 premium tickets close to the stage are on sale for $5 in a advance, or $10 at the gate. As of early this week, half of those tickets had already been sold. No lawn chairs are permitted in the paid-seating area.
One thing that hasn't changed is that the celebration will culminate in a fireworks display at around p.m. near the Green Bridge Fishing Pier.
Previous editions of the Palmetto Fourth of July celebration have attracted more than 10,000 people, according to estimates.
Details: 4 p.m. July 4, Sutton Park, 1050 Sixth St. W., Palmetto. Tickets: Free; VIP seats $5 in advance, $10 at the door. Information: palmettocra.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.