Concert preview: Ohio State Fair brings Dolly Parton, Lecrae and others to fried-food fest

Joel Oliphint

Every year the Ohio State Fair books a variety of concerts to take in between bites of fried candy bars and butter-sculpture gazing. Here's a quick primer on the acts playing the Celeste Center this year, with a ranking of 1 to 5 corndogs (and yes, in this case, the more corndogs the better).


Thursday, July 28 at 7 p.m.

If the words "Christian hip-hop" conjure the cringe-inducing, early-'90s gospel-rap of D.C. Talk, cleanse your palate with Lecrae, an Atlanta MC (and Kendrick Lamar buddy) whose 2014 recordAnomaly debuted at No. 1 on theBillboard 200 chart. AsRolling Stone proclaimed, "[Lecrae]may not swear, butAnomalyis as hard-hitting as any rap record out right now." [5 corndogs]

Charlie Puth,DNCE

Friday, July 29 at 7 p.m.

You probably know Charlie Puth as the guy who sings the high, syrupy part of "See You Again," the Wiz Khalifa collab that served as a tribute to Paul Walker on the "Furious 7" soundtrack. Or maybe from Puth's Meghan Trainor-backed "Marvin Gaye," the unsexiest song to ever namecheck Gaye. [2 corndogs]

Maddie & Tae, Levi Hummon

Saturday, July 30 at 7 p.m.

Maddie & Tae's 2014 hit "Girl in a Country Song" did a pretty good job poking fun at the reductive way bro-country acts tend to feature women in their songs ("We used to get a little respect, now we're lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep our mouths shut and ride along," the duo sings). But the pair's formulaic pop-country sound could benefit from its own stylistic shake-up. [3 corndogs]

All-Ohio State Fair Band & Youth Choir

Sunday, July 31 at 1 p.m. (Free)

Only an ogre would deny a bunch of Ohio kids singing and playing their instruments in the sweltering heat fewer than four corndogs. [4 corndogs]

Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys, Linda Davis

Sunday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m.

By now we're all aware that Kenny Rogers knows when to hold 'em. Similarly, he knows when to fold 'em. But most crucial for this concert? He knows when to walk away. This is (supposedly) Rogers' final world tour, titled "The Gambler's Last Deal." Catch him before the dealing's done. [4 corndogs]

Rachel Platten, A Great Big World

Monday, August 1 at 7 p.m.

Maybe you, like me, have never heard of Rachel Platten and need to feel really old. If so, here's what to do: Go to YouTube, search for Rachel Platten and then realize her pop anthems ("Fight Song," "Stand by You") have hundreds of millions of views. Still, sometimes millions of people can be wrong (see also: Trump). [2 corndogs]

That Mancini Magic!

Tuesday, August 2 at noon

Henry Mancini scored countless films and TV shows (you'd instantly recognize the themes to "Peter Gunn" and "The Pink Panther"). Here, pianist Mac Frampton and the Moon River Orchestra will perform Mancini's tunes in this free, non-ticketed (and potentially drowsy) performance. [2 corndogs]

Dolly Parton

Tuesday, August 2 at 7:30 p.m.

By far the most legendary act at this year's fair, Dolly Parton's popularity seems to increase with each decade. This is your rare chance to see one of the biggest icons of country music without traveling to Dollywood. I'm begging of you, please, don't miss Dolly performing "Jolene" just because you can. [5 corndogs]

John Kay & Steppenwolf, Foghat

Wednesday, August 3 at 7 p.m.

Steppenwolf has called it quits and re-formed countless times since the band scored hits like "Born to Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride" in the late '60s, but John Kay is the original singer and the only remaining member from the early days. Even though half of Foghat's founding members are dead (including original vocalist Dave Peverett), the band just released a new album. [3 corndogs]

Keith Sweat, After 7

Friday, August 5 at 7 p.m.

Going from Keith Crier to stage name Keith Sweat made sense given this old-school crooner's propensity for steamy, bedroom R&B, but "Crier" would have worked with his whiny vocal style, too. If there's a baby boom in Columbus in early May, blame Sweat. [3 corndogs]

Matthew West, Lauren Daigle

Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m.

In contrast to Lecrae, Matthew West writes the kind of slick, saccharine Christian-pop anthems that unfortunately define much of the CCM industry. West is best when writing for others, like Rascal Flatts and Vince Gill. [1 corndog]

Celeste Center

717 E. 17thAve.,

Ohio State Fairgrounds