Wilson, Big and Rich bringing country music to Aroostook County

Kenny Alphin, left, and John Rich of 'Big and Rich' arrive at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 3, 2011.
Chris Pizzello | AP
Kenny Alphin, left, and John Rich of 'Big and Rich' arrive at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 3, 2011.
Posted April 07, 2011, at 8:29 p.m.
Last modified April 08, 2011, at 5:28 a.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — For the last three weeks, Dixie Lee Shaw kept teasing her friends by posting the same cryptic comment on her Facebook page: “Big news coming soon.”

On Thursday, she changed it to “Big & Rich news.”

A three-month effort involving a partnership among Aroostook Savings and Loan, Catholic Charities of Maine and Spud Speedway came to fruition Thursday with the announcement that Aroostook County is bringing country music star attractions Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy to Caribou for a benefit concert on Aug. 20.

“I’ve been busting at the seams for three weeks because I couldn’t tell anyone,” said Shaw, program director of Home Supplies and Food Bank, the central food bank and warehouse for Aroostook County. “I am the ORIGINAL Dixie chick, so death will be the only reason I won’t be there.”

Well, she is from the South … South Bridgewater.

The Xtreme Muzik Tour reuniting Wilson with former tour partners and duo John Rich and Big Kenny Alphin has added Caribou’s Spud Speedway to its list of stops this summer because of the efforts of Aroostook Savings and Loan President John Swanberg, who has wanted to do something big to celebrate the bank’s 75th anniversary and benefit a local charity at the same time.

“It’s a crazy idea I’ve had and something I’d been thinking about since January,” Swanberg said. “I presented it to our board, and Catholic Charities of Maine gave us the go-ahead.

“We’re a fairly small community bank with 25 employees so this is quite a bit of money to book these guys and quite a risk for us, but it’s a great way to raise money for a wonderful cause that is really struggling, like a lot of people around here and all over the country are.”

One hundred percent of the profits from ticket sales and 50 percent of food and drink sale profits will go to Catholic Charities of Maine’s Feed the County campaign to raise money and hunger awareness in northern Maine. Swanberg hopes to raise $75,000 or more.

“I was just ecstatic. I couldn’t believe something of this magnitude could be put together to benefit our cause,” said Shaw. “We serve 24 food pantries from Wytopitlock to St. Francis, and Fort Fairfield to Ashland.”

“It’s by far the biggest fundraiser we’ve ever had.”

Tickets for the Aug. 20 show go on sale April 15 online at www.spud-speedway.com, at Aroostook Savings and Loan branch locations in Caribou and Presque Isle, and at the Catholic Charities of Maine location on Old Van Buren Road. Prices are $49.50 until April 29, $54.50 after that and $59.50 the day of the show.

This is the first time Big & Rich have toured in three years as they went on hiatus during Alphin’s recovery from a longtime neck injury. The duo has released three albums with hit songs “Lost in this Moment,” “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” “Comin’ to Your City,” “Wild West Show,” “Holy Water” and “Never Mind Me.” Wilson won a Grammy for “Redneck Woman” and has four albums with five total top-10 singles to her credit including “Here for the Party,” “When I Think About Cheatin’,” “Homewrecker” and “All Jacked Up.”

Shaw said this event not only will help her food warehouse and surrounding food cupboards immensely, it also will hasten the opening of a much-needed second store that she has been planning to open for the last six months.

“We have a 60-pound freezer and just distributed food yesterday. Right now, our cupboards are bare,” Shaw said. “This is going to save us and get it through, and it couldn’t happen at a better time. What used to cost us about $30,000 to feed The County’s needy now costs us $90,000.”

Spud Speedway owner Troy Hainey offered the use of his facility, which was the site of a rock concert last year featuring Theory of a Deadman, Eve 6, Sevendust and 12 Stones that drew an estimated 2,000 fans.

“We had to find someone willing to put on the show, and that’s where Troy came in,” Swanberg said. “They had a show there last year, and all indications were it was done well.”

Swanberg said the buzz about the show was constant Thursday.

“I’ve done three or four interviews today and we’ve had a lot of people asking about it. Folks are excited about having an event like this here and not having to drive a long way just to get there.”

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