John Crabtree, president of the Union Fair, and Elmer “Buddy” Savage, vice president and entertainment chairman, announced that country artist Craig Campbell will be this year’s feature entertainer.

Campbell will perform one show, rain or shine, Friday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. on the big stage across from the grandstand. Gate admission includes this show, which is sponsored by The New Country Bear radio station.

Campbell’s voice is straight-forward and powerful. The songs are down-to-earth portraits of real people from the American heartland. The sound is traditional, unapologetic country. Campbell is a proud reminder of one of country’s strongest creative periods, building on the early-‘90s legacy established by some of the genre’s most successful figures: Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Travis Tritt.

Campbell’s unique style is inspired by a blend influences. Growing up, Campbell’s house was filled with the sound of gospel groups — the Cathedrals, the Inspirations, the McKameys — and the from-the-gut approach of those acts resonates in his delivery today. However, magnetized by the quality of performers during one of the genre’s golden radio eras, he instinctively gravitated toward country music. He’s drawn comparisons to Alan Jackson — understandable since they’re both Georgian singers with a similar range and accent. But it was Travis Tritt, embodied with a fierce vocal style similarly informed by gospel singers, who most influenced Campbell.

“I have to believe every one of my songs,” Campbell said in a news release.

It’s a simple premise learned through years of touring at the club level, writing songs in Nashville and playing the bars on Lower Broadway in Music City. Campbell moved to Nashville in 2002 and wasted no time ingraining himself in the music community, quickly becoming one of the in-demand singers on Nashville’s underground demo circuit.

Luke Bryan, fellow Georgian and singer/songwriter, counseled Campbell to write his own songs. If he could sing and write, he’d be more valuable. And he’d have an identity of his own

“At first it was a job,” Campbell said. “I wasn’t used to it, but then I started writing songs that I thought were kind of cool and I’d play ‘em live and people would applaud, and then it started getting to where people were requestin’ ‘em. It takes on a completely different meaning whenever you can stand up and say, ‘Here’s a song I wrote.’ As opposed to, ‘Here’s a song I like.’”

While playing piano in Mindy Ellis’ band (Campbell and Mindy are now married with two daughters) he landed a career-defining gig: a 15-month job touring with Tracy Byrd’s band, giving Campbell his first opportunity to play mid-sized venues. He eventually scored a weekly performance slot at Nashville honkytonk The Stage, where his band consisted of musicians who also played with Big & Rich, Chris Young, Mark Chesnutt and Joe Diffie.

Campbell’s talent soon created a wealth of opportunities. He received an offer from one of Nashville’s major labels but he was more intrigued by interest from songwriter-producer Keith Stegall, who was led to work with Campbell after seeing his set at The Stage. Campbell turned down the other offer to wait while Stegall and several other industry veterans developed Bigger Picture Group.

“The one word Keith has used a lot with me is iconic,” Campbell said. “He says, ‘We don’t want to do a one-song project, we’re gonna shoot for 20 years.’”

Campbell headed into the studio with Stegall to work on his first project, founded on his big, commanding voice and centrist-country songwriting. The company introduced him with the 2010 single “Family Man,” a song that incorporates the centerpiece of his life, the source of his emotional strength and the reason he wakes up in the morning. His self-titled debut album blends Campbell’s masculine, no-nonsense vocal style with solid, salt-of-the-earth songs about America’s working class. The project’s songs, 11 of which are co-written by Campbell, expand on the central themes of his life — family, friends, purpose and self-determination — all delivered with the force and conviction of someone who’s lived every sentiment in every word.

“It’s traditional, back-to-basics, true country music,” Campbell said. “It’s what I am. I can’t be anything else.”

The Union Fair runs Aug. 20-27. For more information visit