For those people who can't wait to celebrate Saturday in the Park this weekend, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City has taken the liberty of hosting the official kickoff party a day before the big event.

To offset Saturday in the Park's headlining sound (the soulful Aretha Franklin and the hip Foster the People), Hard Rock has arranged for two southern rock bands to entertain guests Friday (July 3) on the Anthem Stage.

Opening the night is A Thousand Horses. The band's first single, "Smoke," has received a considerable amount of praise and has topped various country music charts. The song is the first of two singles released from the band's 2015 album "Southernality." The second single, "(This Ain't No) Drunk Dial," was released near the end of June.

The Hard Rock's trend of debuting up-and-coming country music artists continues with the inclusion of A Thousand Horses.

"We made some great choices here," said Todd Moyer, general manager of Hard Rock Sioux City. "We just love finding new talent and giving new musicians a shot."

Finishing off the pregame Saturday in the Park party is Blackberry Smoke. The band makes its return to Hard Rock after playing a show at the establishment nearly a year ago. The band has toured along with The Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Moyer said he's glad the Hard Rock will be a part of the Saturday in the Park music festival and can help spread more live music in Sioux City.

"I think what we set out to do here was not to move music to the Hard Rock but just basically create more music opportunities for the whole city," he said. "[Sioux City] already had a great musical vibe and history here.

"The Sioux City audience loves live music. They've shown it in with things like Fridays on the Promenade, shows at the Tyson [Events Center] and the Orpheum Theatre and of course Saturday in the Park. We thought we could be a good complement to that already emerging scene."

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Weekender reporter

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