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Country star Nathan Osmond carries on the family name at the Florida Strawberry Festival

If you go to see Nathan Osmond at the Florida Strawberry Festival, be prepared for a country rockin' good time.

No, seriously.

Expect beach balls to bounce off the stage, a special recognition of veterans, and an American Idol-like moment where audience members will be invited to come on stage and show off their chops.

It's all part of Osmond's plan to turn Plant City into "small-town America with the biggest party around," he said.

Osmond's appearance at the event that celebrates the beloved berry also kicks off the start of his "Welcome to the Party" tour. From today until the festival's end on March 13, Osmond will host two daily shows, one at noon and another at 3 p.m. on the Tampa Bay Times Variety Stage.

"He has the ability to touch and connect with people," said festival director Paul Davis, who saw Osmond perform at the festival last year. "Every show he does is a little different."

And if one Osmond twice a day isn't enough for you, Nathan's more famous uncle and aunt, Donny and Marie, also will headline on Sunday on the Wish Farms Sound Stage.

Is there chance that either — or both — will perform with Nathan?

"I'm hoping (Marie) can join me on stage," he said.

Crooning a song or two with their nephew would be the right thing for Donny and Marie to do. After all, Nathan is the one who told them about the "fantastic" crowd the festival attracts.

After his appearance at last year's festival, Nathan suggested that Donny and Marie play the event as well.

"They said 'yes,' " he said. "I'm glad to welcome my aunt and uncle to the party."

Nathan is the son of Alan Osmond, one of six brothers — Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, and Jimmy — who composed the original Osmonds group that rose to fame singing barbershop music in the 1960s and pop hits in the 1970s.

Like his dad, Nathan grew up singing barbershop tunes with his seven brothers who became a boy band: The Osmonds — Second Generation. In 1986, the brothers appeared on a Bob Hope Christmas special and later traveled the world.

They soon switched over to the mainstream, and in the 1990s toured with popular acts such as New Kids on the Block and Salt-N-Pepa.

It wasn't until Nathan's family moved to Branson, Mo., that he began to "fall in love with country music."

Nathan began pursuing a career in country music in the 2000s. He traveled to Nashville where he wrote songs for country music group Lonestar.

Shortly after his arrival, Lonestar's lead singer, Richie McDonald, left the band to pursue a solo career. At that time, Nathan said he confided in band member Dean Sams his desire to record an album. The two teamed up and Sams produced four songs on Nathan's 2010 debut Feels Like Heaven.

Nathan said he initially kept his solo aspirations under wraps from his famous family. When he revealed his intentions after recording in Nashville, the love he received from everyone confirmed to him that he was on the right track.

"I think they were really surprised," he said. "I was encouraged by their reaction to my going country."

But there was one burning question: should Nathan — an Osmond trying to establish himself in the music business — use the name Osmond? Or should he go by — wait for it — Nathan George?

Nathan said he sought out the advice of his uncle and aunt. Both had different reactions.

"(Marie) said no," he said. "That way, people can hear the album without prejudgement."

But Donny was adamant that Nathan keep his name.

"'You have a brand; it's called 'Osmond,' " Nathan recalls Donny telling him.

Nathan, who is married and the father of three boys, said family and faith are the bedrock of his career.

"Our goal has always been to have people take a break from the world and to use our talents and gifts to bring people to Christ," he said.

Six years after his first album, Nathan is excited about his new tour and upcoming record that's dedicated to veterans.

Most of all, he's glad he took his uncle's advice.

"I'm proud of the Osmond name and our 55 years in show business," he said. "I respect that."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story. Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]

If you go

The festival at 303 N Lemon St. continues its 11-day run with all things strawberry (shortcake, pie and even pizza) along with midway rides, free entertainment on various stages and headline entertainment on the Wish Farms Stage. Gates open at 10 a.m. daily and the midway opens at noon today, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and March 11. Midway opens at 10 a.m. on weekends and on Monday. Admission is $10, $5 ages 6 to 12, 5 and younger free. Concert tickets extra. Call (813) 752-9194.

Country star Nathan Osmond carries on the family name at the Florida Strawberry Festival 03/03/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2016 10:32am]
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