Country legend Charlie Daniels is throwing a Memorial Day weekend party, and thousands of Pikes Peak region troops are invited.
The Gazette-sponsored Volunteer Jam concert on May 24 at the newly renovated Fiddler's Green Amphitheater will feature Daniels along with the Outlaws, Black Hawk and rising country star Craig Campbell. Of the 16,000 tickets for the concert, nearly 13,000 will be given away to troops, Red Cross volunteers, police officers and firefighters.
"These people are our protectors and give a great contribution to our communities, and we wanted to give something back," explained Chuck Morris, president and CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, which scheduled the giveaway to kick off a summer of music at Fiddler's Green.
The amphitheater is near Arapahoe Road and Interstate 25 in Greenwood Village.
Morris said concert plans have been ongoing for months and AEG Live has been working with area first-responder agencies and military bases to get tickets to deserving volunteers. Troops looking for tickets can ask their unit for a special Internet address to seal the deal.
"They have to go through their base command and they are all aware of it," Morris said.
Volunteer Jam is an annual ritual for Daniels, who rose to stardom on his fiddle-smoking "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and southern rock anthem "Long Haired Country Boy" in the 1970s. The concerts started in Nashville in 1974 and have branched out to new locations in recent years with a style that blends hard-driving rock and traditional country tunes.
"I am able to pursue the profession that I love and a big part is due to the men and women who risk their lives to keep us free," Daniels said in a statement. "We take great pleasure in welcoming them to our show in Colorado."
At 77, Daniels can still jam with the best of them and the Fiddler's Green show is the biggest on his packed summer calendar.
Morris has known Daniels for years and said his concerts are a top experience.
"He has been a great contributor to the American culture," Morris said.
Daniels and company will be playing in what is essentially a new venue. AEG Live reached an agreement last year to manage Fiddler's Green and embarked on a $5 million remodel of the facility that opened in 1988. Morris said everything from the stage to the 7,500-seat grandstand has been rebuilt.
AEG Live is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is affiliated with venues such as Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., and The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Volunteer Jam is planned to rechristen the amphitheater, best known for its grass-covered seating area that holds 10,000 revelers.
"We felt like we wanted to do something very special for our opening night," Morris said.
Fiddler's Green has a packed lineup for the rest of the summer, including shows with Rascal Flatts, Panic! At the Disco and Linkin Park. Fresh off his Super Bowl appearance, Bruno Mars has scheduled an Aug. 17 show at the amphitheater that's already sold out.
Members of the military are looking forward to Volunteer Jam.
"We are grateful that leaders in the community recognize the dedication and effort of the Colorado National Guard to support our fellow citizens," Maj. Gen. Mike Edwards, the Colorado Guard's commander, said in a statement.
"The soldiers, airmen and families of the Colorado National Guard work tirelessly to be ready when called by the governor or the president. It will be great to have the opportunity to relax and enjoy an evening of entertainment surrounded by the military and volunteer partners that we work with."