National Tom Sawyer Days 2015 will get underway on July 2. Once again this year, the Hannibal Jaycees will be bringing a national-level recording artist to headline at Tanyard Gardens. Jon Pardi, best known for his Top 10 hit "Up All Night," will take the stage on Friday, July 3. We spoke with Chris Powell from the Hannibal Jaycees to get some behind-the-scenes information on what it takes to plan and host such a large event, and to find out what will be new at Tanyard Gardens this summer.

Kurt Parsons

The Hannibal Jaycees have really stepped it up over the past couple years in bringing some national-level recording artists to National Tom Sawyer Days. What led the Jaycees to decide on investing such a heavy commitment into NTSD entertainment? 

Well, we wanted to try and bring in bigger national acts, with us purchasing our downtown building the goal was to have better entertainment like the old amphitheater used to bring in. Someday we hope to get back to that level of bands coming into town. Not only that, but the only way for us to keep growing was to bring in bigger acts and make NTSD bigger and better every year. Our eventual plan is to hopefully get on the lists of the artists when they are passing through the area to say, "Hey, lets stop in to Hannibal and play a concert." We want national acts to know about Hannibal and want to come this way and play our venue. Not only to help put Hannibal on the map, so to speak, but to bring a bigger spotlight onto Hannibal, The Jaycees, and the downtown area, and of course to bring better entertainment that the community will enjoy.

How do the Jaycees pick the artists the will perform during NTSD? 

It's very time consuming and literally takes months to choose who we want to bring in as the next artist. We have been focusing on bringing in up-and-coming artists, like in 2013 we brought in Black Jack Billy. These guys were new to the charts and where looking like they were gonna go far. Then in 2014 we brought in Josh Thompson and he is definitely going places. The Thompson concert was by far the best one that we have had in years. This year we are of course bringing in Jon Pardi who is another up-and-coming artist, and one to watch. This guy has some real talent and has some amazing songs. I personally see him hitting the top 10 charts once again. Not only that, but this year we are also having Natalie Stovall and the Drive open for Pardi, and she as well is another up-and-comer. Her music is full of energy and she puts on a great show. And she is a fiddle player, as well. They both are artists that everyone needs to keep track of and pay attention to.

Josh Thompson was packed in 2014. What did the Jaycees learn from such a resounding success?

We definitely learned a lot last year as far as how to run a huge event, how to manage the people, both Jaycees running the show serving the drinks and running the gates. We also learned what kind of emergencies might creep up during a show and got them handled swiftly and professionally. This year you will see a lot of changes to Tanyard and a lot of these changes are all thanks to last year's Josh Thompson Concert,

We know you’ve been hard at work in revamping Tanyard Gardens for this year. Can you tell us a little about what is new?

Well the obvious thing is the much bigger stage this year along with the new pavilion that we have built for the bands. This new stage and pavilion allows us as Jaycees to not have to setup a tent for the stage. Not only does it cut down on the work that the Jaycees have to do to get ready for NTSD, but it also provides a more secure and safer venue for the artists to play in.

A few years ago back, in 2011, The Indiana State Fair stage collapse was an incident during an outdoor concert by Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair in which a wind gust from an approaching severe thunderstorm hit the stage's temporary roof structure, causing it to collapse. The structure landed among a crowd of spectators, killing seven people and injuring 58 others. This is not something that we want to ever happen at one of our events, and we are making strides forward to safeguard both the public and the artists that perform at National Tom Sawyer Days.

Plus, this year you will notice that even though our downtown lot has not changed in size, we will have a lot more room with the changes that we have done. There will be more seating available, as well as a much bigger VIP Section and new luxury bathrooms for the VIP guests.

For those interesting in coming to Tanyard Gardens in 2015, are tickets still available?

Yes tickets are still available. Tickets can be purchased online for both concerts and the VIP tickets are only available online. If you are lokoing for general admission tickets, and want the paper ticket in hand before the day of the concerts, then you can go to Hannibal and Palmyra County Market stores to purchase your tickets from the customer service counters.