Meet the family behind Luke Bryan's 'Farm Tour' concert in South Huntingdon

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May 18—When Joshua Cunningham found out his family's South Huntingdon farm was in the running to host a concert by "American Idol" judge and country music star Luke Bryan, he asked Bryan's producer about their honest chances.

"He said, 'I've been looking at it on Google Maps — you have a big flat property in the shape of a rectangle. You got a real good chance,'" said Cunningham, 44, of Latrobe.

With three entrances in and out of the property, the farm already has a leg up on the Pavilion at Star Lake in terms of moving concertgoers in and out, and in early May, Bryan's security team reached out to Cunningham and his parents, Gary and Joyce. They wanted permission to rent the family's 141-year-old farmstead for the Sept. 28 stop on Bryan's Farm Tour, a series of fall shows staged at family farms in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Bryan's management team told him the show's roughly 18,000 tickets sold out in five days, the quickest sellout for any of the Farm Tour shows so far, Cunningham said.

Bryan's team didn't return several messages seeking comment.

The Cunninghams' 90 acres, located just a few minutes off Interstate 70, are part of what was a larger farm owned by Joshua's grandparents.

"It was originally established in 1883 as the Jewett-Smith farm, and then my grandparents bought the land in the 1940s," he said. "It was formerly a hog and dairy farm — we had 1,800 hogs and 220 head of cattle."

In recent years, the Cunninghams have not worked the farm. Joshua's mother Joyce runs a seamstress business on the property, and the family has rented out its fields for corn and soybean planting, which won't be happening this year.

On a breezy, sunny Thursday, a planter from Matson Farms in Ligonier was turbo-tilling the Cunninghams' fields to prepare to plant oats and rye.

"If they were to grow soybeans, they might not be ready to harvest in time," said Joyce Cunningham, 70. "And with corn, it leaves that stubble behind that people can trip on. So we're going to plant oats and rye, and then it'll be cut down and almost work as grass."

The majority of the acreage will be used for parking more than 7,000 cars. Bryan's production team will arrive in advance of the show to build the stage and infrastructure for the concert. Cunningham said the production team handles basically all aspects of show preparation, which will include building a small gravel ramp for easier access to the parking areas, as well as coordinating the logistics of moving thousands of people around the property.

"I talked to some of the other farms that have hosted it before," he said. "They told me I'll be pretty bored, just sitting around while they build this giant three-story stage and all the other stuff. They bring in everything — concessions, vendors, all of it."

That has meant giving disappointing news to a lot of local groups.

"We've had offers for volunteers in exchange for tickets, people calling about their food trucks, fire companies asking if they can charge for parking, bands that want to be the opening act," Cunningham said. "But he rolls in with everything."

Initially, Cunningham said he was a bit skeptical.

"Honestly, in today's world, we didn't even know for sure if we were talking to Luke Bryan's people at first," he said. "But I called up a Kentucky farm that hosted last year and is doing it again this year. They said Luke and his people took great care of them. They've been very open from the beginning, letting us know what to expect. He definitely appreciates the farmer, and he comes from a farming background."

Cunningham's mother is hoping everyone behaves.

"You hear about the Kenny Chesney shows in Pittsburgh and what things look like after," she said. "But we were told by Luke's producer that, obviously, he doesn't want a bad reputation."

Joshua Cunningham, who has been listening to Bryan for years, is looking forward to the show.

"I've been impressed," he said. "They've told us whatever it takes to get it done, they're willing to provide. There hasn't been anything we've asked for that they've given us a hard 'no' on."

The family has started an Instagram page, at, to showcase the farm, its history and the preparation for the concert.

Luke Bryan's Farm Tour concerts will include special guests Conner Smith, Tucker Wetmore, the Peach Pickers and DJ Rock.

For details, or to place your name on a waitlist if additional tickets or VIP packages become available, visit

Patrick Varine is a TribLive reporter covering Delmont, Export and Murrysville. He is a Western Pennsylvania native and joined the Trib in 2010 after working as a reporter and editor with the former Dover Post Co. in Delaware. He can be reached at