The 2017 Festival of the Bells will open in Hillsboro at 5 p.m. on Thursday with the opening of the midway, a presentation of colors, the National Anthem and the annual festival parade.
This year’s parade, scheduled to begin 6:30 p.m. Thursday, is themed “United We Stand,” sponsored by the Highland County Firefighters Association and All American Fire Equipment.
The highlight of each year’s festival is the evening entertainment from the main stage, beginning at 9 each evening. This year’s lineup features Christian music star Danny Gokey on Thursday, followed by country stars William Michael Morgan on Friday and Brett Young on Saturday.
In addition to his hit song, “In Case You Didn’t Know,” Young is a nominee for ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year and had a hit with “Sleeping Without You,” among other songs.
Morgan is known for his hit “I Met A Girl,” as well as several other songs.
Gokey had the No. 1 hit on Christian Air Play earlier this year with “Rise.”
Local acts have been chosen to open for the headline entertainers this year. They include H.A.N.D.S at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, Kennedy Waton, Brandi Wooten, Nick Davis and Patrick Roush at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, and Brynna Boone and Ricky Cooper at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
When it comes to its main entertainers, the festival has a reputation of booking stars just as they hit the big time. In an interview earlier this year, Rick Williams, entertainment chair, said the festival committee paid $11,000 to get Brad Paisley to Hillsboro a few years ago and now he demands $750,000 per show. He said the committee paid $6,000 to get Taylor Swift to the festival and she now makes $1.5 million a show.
Three Hillsboro banks are combining forces this year to serve as the sponsors of the main stage during the 2017 Festival of the Bells — Merchants National Bank, NCB and First State Bank.
The three-day celebration also features popular activities such as a Preacher Pie Eating Contest, the Steve Faris Magic Show, a car show, pet parade, baby parade, 5K run/walk, a variety of children’s games and rides, along with much more. For a complete schedule visit www.festivalofthebells.com.