Nationally known Nugent comes to Royalton
By Adam Hammer
July 26, 2007
ROYALTON — If the two Ted Nugent billboards likely stolen as souvenirs are any indication, people in the area are excited about this weekend's Half-Way Jam.
Festival organizers say this year's lineup for the classic rock music festival has some of the biggest names booked in the festival's four-year history. Nugent and fellow rockers Quiet Riot, Night Ranger, Starship starring Mickey Thomas, The Guess Who and The Classic Rock All-Stars will perform behind Henry's Farm Supply along U.S. Highway 10 in Royalton.
"We've had to replace two Ted Nugent signs," said Bill Henry, Half-Way Jam organizer and Henry's Farm Supply owner. Half-Way Jam fliers also have been disappearing from windows and store displays. "I've had a full-time job just hanging posters," said Bill's wife, Sandy. The third 4-by-8-foot billboard that went up along U.S. Highway 10 was put in place with a few extra screws, Bill Henry said.
Since the late 1970s, Nugent has been attracting crowds with his Motor City Madman persona and searing guitar riffs. He has recorded some of rock's most popular hits such as "Wango Tango," "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Stranglehold." Offstage, through his work as a hunting advocate, he has become an often controversial conservative voice that supports the rights of gun owners.
A few missing billboards and fliers are a small concern for the Henrys, compared with their computer being stolen from the Henry's Farm Supply building last year. The computer contained all of their Half-Way Jam records, and the loss almost put an end to the festival. "(The computer) is about all they took out of here," Bill Henry said. Friends and family involved with the festival put together odds and ends of the records to rebuild the information.
Building an audience
About 3,200 people attended each day of last year's Half-Way Jam, which was the biggest turnout of its young life as a concert event. The Henrys predict this year's attendance will set another record. Ticket sales were more than 3,000 Wednesday, and many concert attendees will buy tickets at the gate, Bill Henry said.
Having Nugent on the bill has a lot to do with the increased attendance, Sandy Henry said.
"We got a lot of calls for people wanting to see Ted Nugent," she said. "It helps a lot when you know what people want."
Signing Nugent to the Half-Way Jam bill was a matter of good timing. Nugent is releasing his first studio album in five years, "Love Grenade," in August and is on tour promoting it.
When the Henrys found out he was open for booking and playing in the Midwest when Half-Way Jam is held, they jumped at the chance to have him come to Royalton. Nugent plays Chicago on Friday and in Tower on Sunday.
The Henrys worked closely with Jeff and Tommy Vee of Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph to book Nugent and other performers.
"There's no way we could have done what they do for us," Sandy Henry said.
The Vees also produced last year's Half-Way Jam.
Wearing two hats
Running Half-Way Jam has become a year-round operation for the Henrys, but they said they have no plans to quit their full-time business of selling farm supplies any time soon.
"Last year, one day after Half-Way Jam, we changed hats and started selling farm supplies," Sandy Henry said.
Half-Way Jam started on a whim after the Henrys attended Moondance Jam in Walker.
"(Bill) said, 'We could do this. We could do this at the shop,' " Sandy Henry said.
Lisa Henry, Bill and Sandy Henry's daughter, dared her father to try it, and he did.
"Everyone pretty much said I was nuts," Bill Henry said. "It's a lot of work, but in the end, when the day of the concert comes, it's all worth it."
Only half-way there
It's not easy to see from Highway 10, but behind Henry's Farm Supply is a fenced concert arena with vendor booths and a wooded backdrop. The Henrys added another 20 acres of land this year for camping. A total of 80 acres behind Henry's Farm Supply are used for Half-Way Jam.
Bill Henry looks at the festival's overhead costs and liabilities from a no-nonsense perspective.
"The costs are there whether there's one or 10,000 people," he said.
Half-Way Jam is growing fast and Bill Henry said he would like to see it get a little bigger. However, he doesn't want to start the next WEFest or Moondance Jam. But if he want to make it any bigger he'll have to buy more land.
"When I first bought it, this was a strawberry field," Bill Henry said. "We'll see how it goes. If it keeps growing, we'll grow with it."