MORRISTOWN - While Jamboree in the Hills doesn't officially kick off until this evening, the music and party started nearly a week ago in campgrounds surrounding the venue.
At Valley View Campground, that party will continue well into the night following each day's main stage performances and, according to Chris Dutton, that is by design.
"We've always wanted to form Valley View into something of a destination itself," said Dutton, whose family owns and operates the site across the road from the Jamboree grounds.
IN CONCERT — Sydney Hutchko performed Wednesday at Valley View Campgrounds as part of the venue’s Jamboree in the Hills kickoff concert. -- J.W. Johnston Jr.
That destination includes annual events like Funnel Fest, which two years ago attracted Friday Jamboree headliner Luke Bryan, as well as its own list of performers and live music once things wound down across U.S. Route 40.
"With Jamboree ending at 11 each night, we realized a lot of people don't get to bed then," Dutton said.
The lineup this year features local favorites, including Old Buddy Jack, Ruff Creek, Matt VanFossen and Tim Ullom, who kicked things off Wednesday evening.
"Tim had always camped with us and had done his own thing, so we just expanded on that," Dutton said.
Acts like VanFossen and Ruff Creek will take the main Jamboree stage this weekend and have developed a strong fan following. Dutton said a family friend who helps book the acts has strong connections to the music scenes in Wheeling and Pittsburgh, which has helped keep the level of entertainment high.
"We've been lucky to book these acts that are extremely talented," Dutton said. "We're also lucky that as word has gotten out about us, bands have contacted us looking to play."
Dutton said he has heard from dozens of campers - many of whom return each year - who said they come specifically for the fun at Valley View. That is evident by the more than 6,000 people who crowd around the stage each night. With that size crowd, security is important, but Dutton said the security team prefers having all those people in one area.
"It leaves all of the craziness in one area rather than being scattered out," he said. "It is sort of ideal, because security would rather see everything under those lights."
Even with the heightened security, which Dutton said has been on site since last week, the nature of the festival tends to take care of any problems before they start.
"Guys like (Ullom) will stop the show and tell the people to calm down, have fun and not act crazy," he said.
The main event at Jamboree kicks off with opening ceremonies at 3 p.m. today, followed by the Stickers, the Cadillac Three, Will Hoge, Chris Young, Dwight Yoakam and headliner Miranda Lambert.