Craig Morgan

Country music star Craig Morgan sings during the San Diego USO-sponsored "Toast to the Troops" on Naval Air Station North Island. The country star performs at the 168th Ashland County Fair on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. (U.S. Navy photo)

ASHLAND -- Craig Morgan has packed a lot of living into his 55 years on earth.

He brings all of that experience to the 168th Ashland County Fair on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., headlining a full week of entertainment at the Claremont Avenue facility.

The fair's opening ceremony will be Sept. 15 at noon at the Cheyenne Spidel Entertainment Pavilion. There will be a Parade of Bands at 1 p.m. that day on the grandstand track, featuring marching bands from Ashland University and seven high schools, including Ashland, Crestview, Hillsdale, Loudonville, Mapleton and Plymouth.

With seven Top 10 records to his credit, Morgan seemingly had an entire other life before the native of Kingston Springs, Tennessee became a country music star.

He served almost 10 years of active duty in the U.S. Army's famed 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions and almost seven more in the Army Reserve. He was a construction worker, security guard and a Wal-Mart employee after he returned home to Tennessee.

But music was his love and he landed a job in Nashville singing demos for other songwriters and publishing companies, demonstrating talents that led to his own first album in 2000.

His career quickly soared with "Almost Home," which hit No. 6 in 2003. Morgan followed with "That's What I Love About Sunday (No. 1) in 2004-2005, "Redneck Yacht Club" (No. 2) in 2005, "Little Bit of Life" (No. 7) in 2006-2007, "International Harvester" (No. 10) in 2007-2008, "Love Remembers" (No. 9) in 2008 and "Bonfire"  (No. 4) in 2009.

A 10-year member of the Grand Ol Opry, Morgan loves live performances.

"It would look funny if you went to one of my concerts and I stood out there in skinny jeans. I'm not 21 years old, and I shouldn't pretend to be," he said in a story for his website. "But I also know this music will fit right in on country radio today. I'm singing music that is real and believable and at the same time relatable to all types of fans.

"That's hard to do, but you can do it if you stay true to who you are."

Tickets for his Ashland County Fair concert are available online.

The show is just one of the grandstand entertainment offerings during the fair, which runs Sep. 15 through 21.

Included are:

-- OSTPA Tractor Pull on Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

-- Harness racing with pari-mutual wagering on Sept. 16 with separate sessions at noon and 6 p.m.

-- Lawnmower Derby/Truck Pull on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.

-- Motocross racing on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.

-- County Stock Tractor Pull on Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. with an antique tractor parade before the competition begins.

-- Demolition Derby on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

Pavilion entertainment during the week includes:

-- Jammin' Jumpers on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.

-- Nickel Plate Bluegrass Band on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

-- Dixieland band on Sept. 17 at noon.

-- Top Rail Band on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m,

-- Red Ball Jets on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

-- The Electric Circus on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.

-- County Line Band on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

The fair will also feature:

-- Bates Brothers Amusements Co. rides and midway games each day.

-- Kiddie events at the pavilion, including a tractor pull on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m., diaper derby crawling on Sept. 19 at 10 a.m., toddler foot race on Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m. and a small fry car race on Sept. 20 at 11:30 a.m.

-- Junior Fair King and Queen contest on Sept. 15 at 12:30 p.m. and the Senior Fair King and Queen contest Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. Both of these events will be at the pavilion.

-- Veterans' Day on Sept. 16 with free admission to the fair with ID and a free meal for veterans from noon to 6 p.m.

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