EAST MANATEE -- With nationally known touring bands Alabama, Molly Hatchet and Guess Who scheduled to perform, thousands are expected to attend Ranch Jam 2015 to help inaugurate the three-day weekend event.
The family friendly music festival begins Friday and runs through Sunday on a 2,000-acre working ranch belonging to the Big Red Cattle Co. on County Road 675 in Myakka City. It's perfect for those who want to pitch a tent on festival grounds and spend the weekend enjoying live music.
Bradenton booking agent Cindy Boelkins, the brainchild behind Ranch Jam 2015, designed Lakewood Ranch Winterfest 2014 and
has connections from years of working in the entertainment industry to book concert headliners.
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"I have a lot of contacts in the music business and I was able to use them. Every one of these bands is top-notch and I'm so proud to bring them in. If you can pull somebody like Alabama, that will set you on your feet in a second," Boelkins said during a phone call Tuesday from her downtown Bradenton office.
Boelkins said the musical entertainment was planned to interest music lovers who enjoy listening to classic rock and pop as well as country, country-rock and the blues.
Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Friday, where a 90-foot stage accompanied by two jumbo video screens will feature Bradenton's own Billy Rice Band and guitarist Jeff Cooke, who helped found the 1970s group Alabama with his cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry. Festivalgoers are asked to bring a blankets or lawn chairs to set up around the stage.
On Saturday, Alabama will make an appearance (Cooke is expected to join them), performing a Top 40 blend of country, Southern rock and bluegrass, along with the Eagles tribute group Hotel California, 1980s country vocal band Restless Heart, and Grammy Award-winning country solo act Neil McCoy.
Sunday's musical lineup will include Manatee County resident Rick Derringer (The McCoys, Johnny Winters and Steely Dan), Molly Hatchet, Guess Who and 12-year-old Palmetto phenom Jake Castro, a gifted guitarist who has formed his own band, the Jake Castro Band with a group of adult music pros.
"The goal is for every visitor to say: 'I can't wait until next year.' We want everybody, including children, to have a good time," Boelkins said.
Besides 13 bands and entertainers, Ranch Jam 2015 will offer food, beverages and crafts, a kids zone, specials for military veterans and a village for motorcycle enthusiasts.
For those who want to take advantage of the full slate of music, tents can be pitched on the ground for camping the entire weekend with a $110 weekend wristband to listen to the music in the stage area.
Single-day tickets are $45, free under age 12 with an adult, and VIP tickets are $125, which includes seating in the front of the stage with folding chairs, lunch, snacks, dinner and alcoholic beverages.
Parking close to the festival site is $5.
Ranch Jam 2015 tickets can be purchased online at ranchjam.net.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.