By LIZ MOOMEY, Lexington Herald-Leader
SHARPSBURG, Ky. (AP) – Six friends had a common idea: to open a concert hall in Bath County.
Originally, they were looking for a 500-seat arena to showcase artists outside of the hustle and bustle of a city. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the idea of ââthe place got bigger and bigger.
Barnyard Entertainment Venue opened on July 3 in Sharpsburg, a community in northern Bath County. The venue sits on a 172 acre farm and will accommodate 8,000 people and will grow over the years to accommodate larger concerts, festivals and events. The first act was Sawyer Brown for their smooth opening.
Friends, Christy and Jeff Vice, John and Donnetta Dotson, Mark and Kathy Smith, have known each other for years. Their children went to school together and two of their children are getting married soon.
They all brought their strengths, according to Christy Vice. John Dotson is under construction. Jeff Vice retired from the music industry in 2012.
âWe are just ordinary people who wanted to build a concert hall,â said Christy Vice.
Barnyard Entertainment Venue, located at 10005 W. Highway 36, Sharpsburg, was purchased last summer. It used to be a hay farm.
For its official opening on the weekend of July 30, Barnyard will host rock band STYX and comedian Rodney Carrington with John Reep. On August 13, country musician Travis Tritt with The Desert City Ramblers will perform.
âEven though our name is Barnyard, we’re not just going to be country music,â said Christy Vice.
Concerts and shows will be affordable, she promised, with general admission tickets of around $ 40.
The huge black barn is almost complete, even with the hiccups of rainy days and materials from Texas during its deep frost. When completed, the amphitheater will be a 70 foot high stage. The owners plan to install a crow’s nest in the future.
Jeff Vice was hesitant when the talks began about an entertainment venue.
âWhen they called me and asked if I was interested, I said ‘absolutely not, no thanks, this is a waste’,â he said.
Eventually, Jeff Vice warmed up to the idea and he was responsible for securing acts for Barnyard. He maintained his contacts with the industry, which he said were more than musical associates but friends. He wants to make sure that the artists are treated well, even if they are small numbers.
The way Jeff Vice sees it, if they do it right the first year, next year will be easy. He also wants to take risks with newcomers to the music industry, which he sees as a reward artists are likely to return when they become popular.
The place has been designed with a great lighting and stage capacity to have any artist they want.
Preparing for concerts is stressful, said Vice.
âThat’s how it works: it’s stress, stress, stress, a sigh of relief and it all starts again,â he said.
He has a few bucket list artists coming to Barnyard Entertainment Venue. The owners announced on July 3 that country music father and son John Michael Montgomery and Walker Montgomery would be one of 12 shows this season.
Hank Williams Jr. was also announced, a victory for the owners of Barnyard. Jeff Vice said his first goal was to get Hank Jr. to perform at Barnyard Entertainment Venue. It took months and when Jeff Vice got the call he was sure it would be a ‘no’.
Getting Hank Williams Jr. to perform at Barnyard gave the owners the boost they needed and the pending deals started to become official, Vice said.
As the site grows over the years, Sharpsburg will have to catch up. Barnyard’s electricity will run on generators, the town is unable to handle the sewage capacity, and the road to the site is two-lane.
Bath County Executive Judge Bobby Rogers said Sharpsburg was growing with the addition of a convenience store, grocery store and liquor store. The county has recently become wet, which will allow Barnyard to sell alcohol.
Rogers said they were looking for ways to accommodate visitors to Barnyard Entertainment Venue, such as widening Highway 36 and expanding the sewer system.
In the meantime, Rogers said the county would learn to deal with issues with the resources it has.
He hopes the opening of the site will spur additional growth, such as visitor accommodation.
âIt’s a world of possibilities for the northern part of the county and the Sharpsburg area,â Rogers said.