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Annual John Jarrard concert continues today
Activities include free family festival
Denise Peterson, left, and Jayne Pleasants applaud the performance of Rachel Farley Friday during the first night of the John Jarrard and Friends Benefit Concert. - photo by Tom Reed

If walking past a line of tour buses doesn't tell you you're in for a great music festival, listening to the bands warm up will.

Country music lovers scouted the front lawn of Brenau University Friday night looking for the perfect vantage point to watch the 10th annual John Jarrard and Friends Benefit Concert.

Beth and Jared Collins of Cumming enjoyed a picnic while listening to a mic check.

"Just from listening to the sound check I can tell it's going to be a good show," Jared said.

The concert kicked off Friday with the sounds of Gainesville's John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band, Blackberry Smoke, Balsam Range and Rachel Farley.

The event continues today.

"Tomorrow night we'll have all Nashville songwriters up on stage so it'll be a really neat event," said Jody Jackson, executive director of the foundation.

This is the first year the concert has been a two-day festival. Almost 1,100 tickets have been sold for Saturday's concert.

Proceeds benefit Good News at Noon, Good News Clinics, Challenged Child and Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County.

Over the last 10 years, the foundation has raised almost $1 million.

The concert is in honor of the late John Jarrard, a Nashville, Tenn., songwriter, who was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He died from diabetes complications.

"John was a great songwriter from Gainesville. A soulful brother. We love him," Jackson said. "He passed away in 2000 and we started the foundation."

Day two of the festival begins at 10 a.m. with a free family festival where kids can have their faces painted, play games and jump in a bouncy house.

A free song writing seminar will also take place at 10 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church directly across the street from Brenau. Aspiring songwriters can learn from the people who write the hits they hear on the radio.

Nashville songwriters will perform an in-the-round style concert at 8 p.m. Three-time Grammy nominee, Steve Dorff, will perform as well as Jan Smith, another Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee and voice coach to some of the most popular musicians on the radio today.

Lincoln Griffin, Gainesville, sat on top of a picnic table waiting for one of his favorite bands, Blackberry Smoke, to take the stage. He said he's been coming to the event for the last three years. He and his friends said they love the laid-back atmosphere of the concert.

"I love it. I think it's phenomenal for the city of Gainesville and what they do and the singer-songwriters they have come in," Griffin said. "I'm a big music fan in general so I love this."