(MCT) -- As the city of Longview announced Thursday a hometown celebrity would headline its July 4 show, staff continued working to line out the rest of the celebration.
City of Longview staff were joined by country singer Neal McCoy at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center to announce McCoy will headline this year’s Fireworks and Freedom Celebration.
“What better person could help us celebrate the Fourth of July than a true patriot, and the fact that he is our Longview patriot makes it even more so important,” Mayor Jay Dean said.
The announcement was the latest step away from an uproar that began when the city pulled the plug on negotiations with rocker Ted Nugent to headline the show. That decision was made in March, a few weeks after Nugent began drawing negative attention from his past and for comments he made about the president.
To get out of negotiations with Nugent’s booking agency, the city had to pay a portion of his contract fee, which amounted to $16,250. That sum was later recouped by a group Dean dubbed Longview Patriots that solicited donations from area residents and businesses.
“You all know … we stumbled coming out of the gate, but however we think we recovered very well in the fact that we have a patriot from Longview” headlining the show, Dean said.
“There was concern that due to our stumble this event would suffer,” he said. “Because of (Longview Patriots) stepping up and contributing to this celebration, we are not backing up from any of the events that were originally proposed.”
Holly Tucker, an alumna of “The Voice” singing competition show on NBC, also will perform.
City spokesman Shawn Hara said staff members were still looking for other acts to help fill two outdoor stages. Along with rides and other events, the musical acts will fill the bill for the day-long festival.
The goal is to have a variety of genres represented outside the main stage, Hara said.
City officials declined to say how much it cost to hire McCoy but said the act was within budget. The original budget for the act was $30,000.
City staff assumed control of the Independence Day event in spring 2013 after the former sponsor of the annual fireworks show gave it up.
This past year, the city contracted with a promoter who brought many of the events, some of which cost a fee for attendees.
In its first expanded year, the celebration included a number of events such as carnival rides, concerts, a hot dog-eating contest and vendors.
One highlight was the “Rock the Ages” concert, which brought tribute bands mimicking well-known national acts to a stage at Maude Cobb, and, for a fee, gave celebrants an indoor activity while the complex was open from 2 p.m. until sundown.
After the successful event that drew an estimated 12,000 people, staff suggested working to further build the event and set out to find a well-known artist to hold a concert.
Dean said McCoy is touring this summer with country star Blake Shelton, and securing him was a difficult deal for the city.
McCoy said he was pleased to have the opportunity.
“I don’t get to work around home much … One of the most exciting things is once I get to play here, I get to go to my house and sleep,” McCoy said. “This is a pretty nice deal … it gives the opportunity for all of Longview to come out and be a part of this thing and enjoy the fireworks.”
The two-time TNN/Music City News Country Awards entertainer of the year said there were many East Texans who might not have seen his show.
“I promise you, if you haven’t ever seen our show … you need to come see us. We think we are pretty good at what we do,” McCoy said.
According to his website, McCoy broke through with the back-to-back No. 1 singles, “No Doubt About It” and “Wink,” from his platinum-certified album “No Doubt About It” in 1993.
In the years that followed, he recorded two additional platinum albums and a gold album. His most recent album, “Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride,” is a tribute to his mentor.
Tickets for the event are set to go on sale May 16, Hara said.
Thursday night, residents again attended the Longview City Council meeting to push the city for more information on the Nugent situation.
Steve Crane, representing the Longview NAACP, requested the council place the matter on its agenda to discuss it rather than merely hear resident comments.