Toby Keith may perform at Cumberland Fairgrounds; opposition expected

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CUMBERLAND — Country music star Toby Keith may perform in Cumberland this summer if the Town Council approves a permit for the concert.

The council will hear a permit request at its regular council meeting on Monday, April 27, and will hold a special meeting April 29 for final confirmation of the event.

Some Cumberland Fairgrounds neighbors are expected to oppose the July concert, Town Manager Bill Shane said.

The fairgrounds overlay district was designed to make it easier to bring non-fair events to the fairgrounds, Shane said, and Keith’s performance would be the biggest concert in many people’s memories. The concert is being proposed by the Cumberland Farmer’s Club, which puts on the annual Cumberland County Fair.

As “one of the top top guns in country music,” Toby Keith could draw a substantial crowd to the town, Shane said. He expects the council to place restrictions on time, traffic and attendance for the event.

“This isn’t Foxboro,” Shane said, “we can’t handle (a 16,000-person) crowd.”

Keith, 46, is an award-winning singer-songwriter, former Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year and two-time Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year.

Last year, the council approved the Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Festival, which expected (but did not draw) a crowd of up to 12,000. That number would be “reasonable,” Shane said, considering the town’s preparedness for last year’s event.

The April 27 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The April 29 meeting is not yet listed on the town Web site calendar. Both will be open to the public.

Islander access

Also on the April 27 agenda is a workshop where the council will discuss a request from Sturdivant Island residents for a boat landing facility to be built on the mainland.

In their request, Doris and Herbert Strout said Sturdivant Island is unfairly served by the town and the least the town could do would be to provide a “decent landing facility at the end of the Town Landing road.” They outlined a possible series of floats to be used during high tide, rather than building a public dock.

Shane said this week that discussion on the request will be “interesting.” Fulfilling the Strouts’ request, he said, “will be very difficult because we don’t have any room” in that area. There’s only 50 feet of right-of-way, he said, and inadequate parking. Plus, he said, without dredging, boat access would be extremely limited.

“At low tide,” he said, “you’d be dragging your skiff across mudflats for up to 1,000 feet” in order to access Town Landing.

Though Shane said he is unsure what the outcome could be, the council will meet with the Strouts and other interested residents in the workshop beginning at 6 p.m. Workshops are informal meetings at which the council discusses items and decides its next course of action.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or

This story was edited on May 14, 2009, to reflect that Shane meant to say a Keith concert could draw 16,000 people, not 60,000.