Color posters of Brad Paisley and David Archuleta will appear in the Daily Herald on Friday and Sunday.

PROVO -- Stadium of Fire entertainment has gone back and forth the last few years between a youth movement and its long-favored country music format. This year, both interests will be served as country superstar Brad Paisley and “American Idol” favorite David Archuleta will be the featured entertainment on July 2 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, which oversees the event, announced the headline performers Thursday.

Paisley, who has been racking up No. 1 country hits for years — 18 total, including 14 consecutive — has earned three Grammys, 14 Country Music Association Awards and 13 Academy of Country Music Awards. In addition, he is the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

“I’m proud to be invited to celebrate America at Stadium of Fire,” Paisley said in a released statement. “We’re going to do all we can to make it a night to remember.”

Archuleta, of course, is the Utah native who tugged at America’s heartstrings while finishing runner-up on Season 7 of Fox’s “American Idol.” His performances on that show, as well as his subsequent solo career, have made him a household name, not only in Utah, but across the nation.

Archuleta was on hand for the official announcement, making it to the press conference in the Cougar Room at LaVell Edwards Stadium with under an hour to spare after driving from Los Angeles. In a brief solo interview afterward, the 20-year-old singer said he had been keeping a lid on his Stadium of Fire invite for a while, so much so that he forgot he hadn’t even shared the news with his mother.

“On my way here, she was like, ‘So, what is it, like, we’re going to do? You have an interview?’ ” Archuleta said. “I said, ‘It’s a press conference for Stadium of Fire.’ She’s like, ‘Oh, really? You’re doing that?’ I’m like, ‘Whoops, forgot to tell her.’”

The pairing of Paisley and Archuleta strikes a balance between country and youth interests that America’s Freedom Festival officials were striving to bridge.

“I think this is going to be a blockbuster combination,” said Carl Bacon, America’s Freedom Festival Foundation trustee and senior executive producer of the event. “We’re just really pleased with the lineup. I think it has broad appeal. In the past, we’ve had some youth performers. Last year, we raised the level of age a bit, and now this year, we’ve got excellent balance for the interests of all ages — youth and adults.”

In the previous four years, headliners included Carrie Underwood, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Brooks & Dunn.

“We know there are many, many grandparents and parents that want to see a show with their children, and we just want to make it pleasing for everybody,” Bacon said. “The year we had Miley, we also had the Blue Man Group. Well, that was the favorite of the adults, and the kids loved Miley. But certainly there are going to be many other elements to the show — patriotism and some exciting surprises that will be announced as time goes on as well.”

Tickets to Stadium of Fire, now in its 31st year, will go on sale to the general public on March 4 at 9 a.m. They will be available simultaneously at the BYU Marriott Center ticket office, or online at www.stadiumoffire.com and www.byutickets.com. Members of the Freedom Festival’s e-mail list, however, will get first crack at tickets, so fans are encouraged to sign up for advance ticket opportunities at www.freedomfestival.org.

Paisley has released nine studio albums. His string of No. 1 hits started out with “He Didn’t Have to Be” in 1999 and runs through “Anything Like Me” from 2010’s combo greatest hits and live double-CD release “Hits Alive.” Other recognizable hits in between include “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” “Online,” “Ticks,” “Alcohol,” “Little Moments,” “She’s Everything” and “Then.”

Paisley’s current single, “This is Country Music,” is also the title track from his next album, scheduled for release on May 24.

“Brad Paisley is one of country music’s most exciting live performers,” Bacon said. “Brad will create a thrilling atmosphere at Stadium of Fire this year. We couldn’t be happier that he’s joining us for America’s best patriotic celebration.”

As is typical, said Bacon, Stadium of Fire will be broadcast live to more than 1 million military men and women  in more than 100 countries via the Armed Forces Network.

One new entertainment element debuting this year is the Stadium of Fire Talent Search. The search process is expected to initially select up to 40 aspiring contestants in various talent formats through both online and live auditions. The contestants will gradually be pared down to 20, 10 and finally three, who will perform during Stadium of Fire and compete for a cash prize of $10,000. The winner will be selected by text vote from those in attendance at Stadium of Fire.

According to Bacon, the idea for the talent search stemmed from last year’s Stadium of Fire — which also featured Utah-grown performers The Five Browns, The Osmonds 2nd Generation and Jenny Oaks Baker, accompanied by Kendra Lowe and her sisters.

“Those three segments triggered a terrific idea, and that is, we’ve got a ton of talent in this area,” said Bacon. “So, the idea came, with all the talent that we have, that it would be exciting to have this talent search.”

It’s not just Utahns who are responding to the contest, Bacon said, noting that early indications show that 25-30 percent of contestants are from across state lines.

“We want this to be a tradition,” Bacon said. “There will be three great performers. It might be groups, it might be an individual, it might be dance. Whatever the talent is that is selected, it will be fun. ... Who knows, we might get another David Archuleta.”

This will not be Archuleta’s first performance at Stadium of Fire. He performed the national anthem as a 12-year-old in 2003, after becoming the Junior Vocal Champion on the “Star Search 2” TV show.

Archuleta recalled his Stadium of Fire debut on Thursday.

“It was a pretty mind-blowing experience,” Archuleta said. “But it’s great getting to come back to celebrate in a way that’s always been pretty special.”

For additional information from Thursday's Stadium of Fire press conference and interview with David Archuleta, visit Doug Fox's blog at www.theeditingroomfloor.blogspot.com.

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