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A local tradition that had its humble beginnings 41 years ago is returning to town this weekend and it looks like it's going to be another family-friendly celebration enjoyed by everyone — no matter their age.

Starting Friday, the Farmington Country Days festival will bring in massive crowds coming to take part in the three days of fun and excitement, will be filling the city’s downtown streets through Sunday.

“Country Days offers something for everyone in the family,” said Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce director of Member Engagement and Business Development Candy Zarcone.

This year’s theme is “Calling All Heroes” and Jerry and Susan Weems were selected to serve as this year’s Mr. and Mrs. Country Days.

“As Country Days ambassadors, this year’s Mr. and Mrs. Country Days are no strangers to promoting the annual festival or the beautiful region they call home,” said Laura Raymer, director of Events and Program Marketing for the chamber. “For more than 35 years, this couple has made it a point to give back to the community that has given so much to them and they have no plans to stop now.”

Jerry Weems is a 1974 graduate of North County High School who went on to receive a Communication Arts Degree from Lindenwood University. Susan Weems is a 1971 graduate of Fredericktown High School, as well as a graduate of Mineral Area College. The pair married in 1982 at the First Assembly of God Church in Farmington. Their son Josh is a 2004 graduate of North County High School.

“For over 30 years, Jerry has been a member of the St. Francois County Rotary Club and he has held just about every single office,” Raymer said. “They even talked him into being president three times. He is the past district governor for Rotary and also president of the Show Me Rotary Leadership Institute, as well as a member of the Farmington Elks Lodge 1765 where he currently serves as treasurer.

“Jerry has been a longtime member of the Farmington Regional Chamber, having served on the board of directors, Chamber Ambassadors and planning committees for many, many different activities including the golf tournament, Country Days, Harvest Night and others. Through his many activities and appointments, Susan has been by Jerry’s side supporting and encouraging him.

“Susan has also volunteered for many years with Country Days at the information booth at Long Park. Both have supported the festival and the many events that are part of the three-day event. Some of their favorite events during Country Days includes the parade, of course; the free concerts in Long Park; visiting with friends and family; and, of course, funnel cake.

“Weems Insurance Agency was created in 2010 and continues to thrive. Josh joined the company in 2017 and after 12 years of working with the state of Missouri, Susan finally joined the family business upon her retirement this last January. We are thrilled to have Susan and Jerry as this year’s official ambassadors of Country Days 2019. The untold hours that they have devoted over the years to our region, our organization and to Country Days in general makes them the perfect fit.”

Raymer noted that this year’s Country Days Parade marshals exemplify this year’s theme focusing on heroes.

“Farmington Country Days has a proud history of recognizing individuals and organizations that have inspired, contributed and made a difference in the community,” she said. “This year the annual festival is honored to announce the parade marshals for the 2019 ServPro Country Days Parade are the members of the Norman L. Rigdon VFW Post 5896.

“The Farmington post was chartered in 1946 with 72 members and was named after Sgt. Norman L. Rigdon who died on Dec. 25, 1944 proudly serving in World War II. His parents donated the land where the post now sits and since its inception it has now grown to 517 members.”

The traditional KREI Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning at the Coldwell Banker Hulsey Realty Gazebo in Long Park, with music, refreshments and a brief message from Farmington Mayor Larry Forsythe.

At 10 a.m., Merchants’ Day will begin with multiple businesses throughout the downtown area participating and offering deals or free treats. Participating businesses include Vintage Home, 23 E Columbia St. (10 a.m.-5 p.m.); Old Time Candy Stand at New Era Bank, 11 E. Liberty St. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); Dress 2 Impress, 117 E. Columbia St. (10 a.m.-2p.m.; Sweet Treats at White Weddings, 14 E. Columbia St. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); Farmington Press/Daily Journal, 227 E. Columbia St. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); The Copper Lantern, 310 N. Washington (10 a.m.-5 p.m.); Bound Society Is Just Ducky!, 122 E. Columbia St. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); First State Community Bank Hot Dog and Soda Stand, parking lot across from 201 E. Columbia St. (10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.); Super Sale at Previously Loved Antiques and Gifts, 104 S. Washington St. (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) ; Say Cheese! At Ozarks Federal Savings, 2 E. Columbia St. (11 a.m.-2 p.m.); Super Hero Meet and Greet at First State Community Bank, downtown (11 a.m.-1 p.m.); US Bank, 2 N. Washington St. (11 a.m.-2 p.m.); and Ice Cream Social at Belgrade State Bank, 5:15 W. Karsh (3-5 p.m.).

The concession vendors in Long Park will open at 5 p.m., along with the Parkland Health Center Country Days Marketplace on Columbia Street, which will present a wide variety of craft and gift vendors.

Also opening at 5 p.m. are the rides and amusements on East Columbia Street, the Blue Star Saloon Beer Garden located just outside Long Park and the Hornets Nest, on the south side of St. Joe School, both of which will all be open until midnight.

Raymer said advance ride tickets for Country Days 2019 are available for a short time only.

“People who buy advance tickets get seven for only $5,” she said. “Once the festival starts, the tickets will be $1 each. Folks can save money by buying theirs now.”

Tickets are available at the following locations: Belgrade State Bank on Karsch Blvd.; Farmington Regional Chamber Office; First State Community Bank in downtown Farmington; First State Community Bank on Maple Valley; New Era Bank at the intersection of Karsch Blvd. and Highway 32; Ozarks Federal Savings & Loan in downtown Farmington; Parkland Health Center on West Liberty Street; Plummer's Ace Hardware in downtown Farmington; Unico Bank on Weber Road; and US Bank in downtown Farmington.

As far as this year’s special events, Raymer said the Country Days Committee is “shaking things up a little bit all across the board” — starting with the StarTek/J98 Talent Show.

“Obviously it’s a vocal competition and in the past, we’ve limited it to solos,” she said. “This year we’re opening it up to duets and small groups. We are super excited about this. A lot of folks in our community weren’t able to do this, so we’re looking forward to a great talent show. As always, the prelims will take place on Friday and then Saturday will be the finals. The winners among the youth and adult competition go on to open for our big band on Saturday night.”

This year will also bring top-notch musical entertainment performed for the crowd by the main stage artists. This year’s mainstage sponsors are Auffenberg GM Superstore, Centene Corporation, First State Community Bank, Parkland Health Center, Pepsi, and SRG Global.

The opening act Friday night is the tribute group, Poizzon, that will take the stage at 9 p.m., followed up by the band Whiskey Dixon. Formed in March of 2008, Whiskey Dixon has quickly moved to the top of the list in the New Country Music genre. The group takes an alternative, edgy approach to the New Country market and since 2008 has built quite a name for themselves.

At 9 p.m., the Saturday night mainstage featured act is Darryl Worley, a country singer well-known for the rich, reedy tones and all-American, blue-collar themes in his number 1 hits “I Miss My Friend,” “Awful, Beautiful Life” and “Have You Forgotten?”

Enjoy the island vibes and blue-eyed soul in Worley’s new songs “It’s Good To Be Me,” “Lay It On Me” and “Lonely Alone.” The alternate sides are both on display in Second Wind: Latest and Greatest, a project that mixes the traditional-country history he established in Nashville with the ragged soul that’s deep in the bones of Muscle Shoals, a musical Alabama hotbed where Worley got his start.

Opening for Worley will be Hunter Harthcoat at 6 p.m. and local favorite, Route 67 at 7:30 p.m.

The annual Little Caesar’s Moonlight Bike Ride takes place at 9:30 p.m. Friday night. It is open to all ages, but riders must have a light on their bike and meet behind Little Caesar’s in the Country Mart parking lot at 9 p.m. The ride will have a police escort.

Saturday will begin with the “Country Days Stampede” 5k or 1-mile fun run at 8 a.m. at Wilson Rozier Park, Pavilion 1. Contestant registration will begin at 6:30 a.m. and all proceeds from the stampede will go toward Kevin Thurman and his fight against cancer. Thurman and his wife Karri were 2015’s Mr. and Mrs. Country Days.

From 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., the First State Community Bank “Sand Bank” will give kids aged 10 years and younger the chance to dig for free money at the bank’s parking lot downtown. From 9 to 10 a.m., First State Community Bank will also host the “Diaper Derby and Decorated Diaper” contest with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The Parkland Health Center Country days Marketplace and concession vendors will be open for the day Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.

The Servpro Farmington Country Days Parade will kick off at 10 a.m., beginning at the Farmington Civic Center, proceeding down Columbia Street to Henry Street, then returning on Liberty Street. With more than 200 entries, this year’s parade is sure to be one to remember.

Carnival rides and amusements will open for the day at 10 a.m., the Hornets Nest will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight and the Blue Star Beer Garden will be open again from noon to midnight.

Tours of the historic Long House Tours will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Long Park. Homespun, featuring rustic crafters and vendors, will be featured on the front lawn of Long House at the same time both days.

For the second year, a beard and mustache contest will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Twin City Toyota Saloon, with registration for the seven categories beginning at noon.

The Country Days Classic Car Show, from 1-5 p.m. and the Country Days Car Cruise-Infrom 5-8 p.m. are both sponsored by Sam Scism Ford Lincoln and will take place on E. Columbia Street.

“SK8 Jam 2018” will be held at the Farmington SK8 Park beginning at noon, with contestant registration at 11 a.m. The competition will include bike and scooter riders, rollerbladers and skateboarders.

At 3:45 p.m., the Little Miss and Master Coronation will be held at the Long Park Coldwell Banker Hulsey Gazebo, sponsored by the Farmington Women of Today.

The final day of Country Days 2018 will feature “Faith and Family Concerts” by the Punches and the Berry Brothers from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Kammermann’s Termite & Pest Control Gazebo. The Farmington Ministerial Alliance Faith Games will follow at 3 p.m. in the Long Park Area.

The marketplace and concession vendors will open at 10 a.m., with the rides and amusements opening at 12 p.m. The Hornets Nest will be open again from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

First aid, cooling, nursing and diaper-changing and phone charging stations will be available during the festival.

For more information and a complete Country Days schedule, visit the Farmington Country Days website at farmingtoncountrydays.com

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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