MERCED — Merced County Fair officials announced this week the Rhett Walker Band, a chart-topping Christian band, will headline the 2013 fair.
The rest of the entertainment lineup for the fair's run -- June 12 through June 16 -- will be announced soon.
Fair organizers said the Rhett Walker Band will perform at 8:30 p.m. on opening day in the Outdoor Theatre, which is free with admission.
The band, described as a Christian alternative/Southern rock group, will perform songs from their debut album, "Come To The River."
Rhett Walker, 25, describes the collection of songs as "wild oats" stories tempered by God's grace. Walker, the son of a preacher, has come a long way from a life of drugs nearly a decade ago.
"I mixed with the rough crowd, got into fights and drugs," he said. "It wasn't long before I was expelled from school -- just always in trouble."
Walker's parents sent their 16-year-old son to a Christian school where he met a girl -- and soon after, they learned she was pregnant.
The high school senior stepped up by marrying the girl and building a life together, he said.
"We've done everything wrong that we possibly can," Walker recalls telling his wife, April. "Let's do everything right from here on out."
After getting married, Walker rededicated his life to God and got his high school diploma. The couple welcomed their daughter and he began leading worship at his church.
Soon after, Walker was able to quit his factory and construction jobs to focus on music and songwriting.
The next stop was Nashville, where the Rhett Walker Band began their first album.
Walker describes his songs as "gritty, graceful and honest" -- influenced by Third Day, the Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"I'm someone living my dream through the grace of God," he said, adding, "I'm blessed with a beautiful wife and two children who have walked with me every step of the way. My faith, my family, and my country are the most important things in my life."
For more information or to buy tickets to the 2013 Merced County Fair, call the fair office at (209) 722-1507, or visit www.mercedcountyfair.com.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.