By Audrey Spencer
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - For its third go-round, the Texas Music Jam has expanded into a two-day hoopla.
With eight professional music acts sharing the program with a 5K fun run, children's singing competition and XBox contest, the event offers activities for all ages to enjoy at no cost.
"I love playing festivals," said Steven Callaway, singer with the Palestine band Backseat Molly, which will perform this evening. "Being out of the smoky clubs is more fun."
Hosted by CHAMPS, or Communities Helping Americans Mature, Progress and Succeed, an organization aimed at steering children away from drugs and alcohol, the jam's goal is to provide influence-free entertainment for the community, said Jack Welch, president of the organization.
"When you look at the lineup, it's designed to do two things: involve all ages and be family friendly," he said.
An assortment of bands with sounds ranging from classic and "red dirt" country to bluegrass will play starting at 4 p.m. today and Saturday, with CHAMPS Idol contests starting at 1 p.m. and punctuating the professional performances.
Welch said about 20 people have signed up for the "American Idol"-style singing competition, which will wrap up just before the final street dance at 9 p.m. Saturday.
A variety of activities are scheduled to keep all members of the family entertained throughout the jam, but the event is a big opportunity for the performers as well.
"We try to bring in up-and-coming Texas groups, that's our goal," said Gary Welch, general manager of Big Valley Agency, which booked the artists for the jam. "You don't have to be a big name to necessarily have a lot of talent. One of the things we strive for is giving artists an opportunity."
Some names are already fairly established in the area, while others, such as last-minute addition bluegrass band Saw Wheel, are new to the scene.
"Hopefully we get to see a lot of people and see other bands and learn from what they're playing," said Willie Elmore, who plays banjo and guitar for the months-old band. "We're new together, so this is kind of a new experience for all of us."
Exposure, of course, isn't something only newly-formed bands value. Entertainers always welcome the chance to reach new ears.
"The people in Copperas Cove are real hospitable to us," said Pat Waters, a locally-known singer who performs with Chainlink Band. "It gives (new bands) quite a bit of exposure. It's a chance for them to cut their teeth on some outdoor events. ... We're stoked to get going."
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.
If you go
The Texas Music Jam starts at 1 p.m. today at Five Hills BBQ, 175 W. Highway 190 in Copperas Cove, with the CHAMPS Idol Search. The first professional performer, Jay Hollis, will take the stage at 4 p.m., with performances and activities continuing through midnight.
Saturday's festivities also start at 1 p.m., with Saw Wheel taking the stage at 3 p.m.
Participants are welcome to bring lawn chairs, coolers, food and drinks to the event. Entrance and parking are free. For the full lineup, go to www.texasmusicjam.com.