CHIPPEWA FALLS — For the second straight year, a well-known country act that has headlined other major area festivals will be playing at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair next summer.

Big & Rich, best known for their 2004 hit “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” will headline the Chippewa Falls fair on Friday, July 12. Big & Rich was a headliner at Country Jam USA in the town of Union in 2008, and the duo played at Country Fest in rural Cadott in 2006, 2007 and 2012. This will be Big & Rich’s first time playing at the fair.

“The Northern Wisconsin State Fair is happy to be able to provide high-level national acts,” fair director Rusty Volk said. “It’s a tribute to the investment the community has made into the grandstand and the stage. Having good grandstand acts ensure people will come out and enjoy the day.”

In 2016, the fairgrounds built a new, permanent stage costing $250,000 and added a larger $100,000 grandstand that seats about 3,000. It is one of the main reasons Volk was able to land acts like the Beach Boys in 2016 and country singer Martina McBride last year.

Big & Rich — Big Kenny and John Rich — won the 2004 Billboard Music Award for best new country duo or group. They were nominated for Grammy Awards for “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” “Comin’ To Your City” and “8th of November.”

The fair will kick off Wednesday, July 10, with a trio of well-known country singers. Collin Raye, Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin are performing on the Roots & Boots ‘90s Electric Throwdown tour. Volk said the trio will sing together while also each performing their major solo hits. The trio played at last year’s Country Jam as well.

The headliner on Thursday, July 11, will be Hairball, which is described as a “bombastic celebration of arena rock.”

“You’ll be awed by Hairball and their pyrotechnic light show,” Volk said.

The headliner on Saturday, July 13, hasn’t been announced at this time. Volk said he has made an offer to a top performer, and he hopes he can announce that act later this month.

The Sunday grandstand show will be a sheep-riding event. Nebraska-based McCane’s Mutton-Busting will bring a variety of sheep for kids to ride, with the challenge to stay on for the longest time.

“The kids have to be 60 pounds or less,” Volk said. “It’s for the first 100 who sign up.”

Tickets for all three announced shows are slated to go on sale today, with one major new change. The grandstand, which has been general admission, will be reserved seating for Big & Rich and the Saturday headliner. Grandstand seats for those shows will cost $20 each. The grandstand will remain free for the Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday shows.

Last year, McBride’s Friday show was the first sellout in Volk’s decade as fair director, and it led to some seating issues.

“After witnessing the long lines, and then the rush to get in to claim seats for Martina McBride, we had to make a change,” Volk said. “It’s for the safety, really, of the fans. You won’t have to stand in line and then rush in when the doors open.”

The Lambeau Field Live experience will be back on the grounds throughout the fair, with Packers’ memorabilia and interactive games.

Heavy rains kicked off the 2018 fair, and that led to a drenched and muddy infield directly in front of the stage. Volk said crews have improved the drainage this fall in hopes of eliminating that problem.

Volk said the fair will donate $1 for each grandstand ticket sold for the Friday and Saturday shows to the Community Foundation of Chippewa County’s fund for Girl Scout Troop 3055. Three Scouts and an adult volunteer from the troop were killed Nov. 3 when a pickup truck crashed into them on a rural road. Colten R. Treu, 21, of Chippewa Falls is charged with four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. Also, Northwestern Bank will donate $5 for each grandstand ticket sold those two days, up to $25,000.

Daily tickets for the fair will cost $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 11. Children five and younger will be admitted free. A fair armband, good for all five days, will cost $20.

Volk also announced that One Fest, a Christian music festival that was held in July, will be back next summer. He is meeting with those officials today to go over logistics.

To learn more about the fair acts and purchase tickets, visit nwsfa.com.