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Grandma's Marathon entertainment will have a new look this year

Grandma's Marathon runners leave the starting line in June 2012. (News Tribune file photo)1 / 2
The rap-rock duo Aer (submitted photo)2 / 2

Tent revelers will see a Boston-based rap-rock duo perform in Canal Park during Grandma’s Marathon weekend.

They will not see a longtime headliner who was inducted into the marathon’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

In: Aer, Pop Rocks, Rhino and Love and Theft with special guest Ashley Monroe. Out: GB Leighton.

“We wanted to change it up and we’re excited about the new direction that we’re going,” said Linda Hanson, the marathon’s finance and operations director. “We appreciate all the years and great performances (GB Leighton) gave.”

Minneapolis-based GB Leighton, fronted by Brian Leighton, had a 17-year stand during Grandma’s Marathon weekend, which this year is June 20-21.

The fun-time sing-along band gained entry in the 1990s with a reference from the Hayward band Molly and the Haymakers. GB Leighton also opened for Jonny Lang one year before taking over headlining duties.

Leighton found out about the lineup change from his agent, he said.

“It was kind of sad,” Leighton said. “It’s been a staple for my audience to go up there every year, even if they didn’t run. I have no hard feelings against them at all. They’ve always been great to us. If they want to try something different, it’s all good.”

Hanson said marathon staff and the board of directors made the decision to find new entertainment.

“We listened to our runners and our weekend supporters and we’re thrilled to offer them something completely different than before,” she said. “We’ve got a genre for everybody. If you like country, we’ve got it. If you like hip hop, we’ve got it.”

Aer (pronounced Air) is Carter Schultz and David van Mering, a duo that combines rap, reggae, pop and indie rock. The band’s 2012 album “The Bright Side” was No. 1 on the iTunes Albums chart and landed on the Billboard 200. Aer’s music has been featured on MTV’s “The Real World.” They released a self-titled album earlier this year.

Pop Rocks is a regional pop tribute act that incorporates costume changes and has been featured during Spirit Valley Days. Rhino, a Twin Cities-based act, covers modern, alternative, 80s and classic rock.

Love and Theft is a country duo that was nominated for the CMA’s New Artist of the Year award in 2012. Ashley Monroe, a Hot Country charter and member of Pistol Annies, will share the stage.

Leighton told the News Tribune in 2010 that he used his Grandma’s Marathon gigs to mentally prepare for other shows.

“It always makes me feel like a star, almost,” he said at the time. “It’s one of those set-ups: big stage, big tents, thousands of people and they sing along all the words. In my mind, that’s why the show is important to me.”

Leighton said that still stands.

“It’s one of my favorite shows,” he said Friday. “I hate to see it leave, but I can understand. Seventeen years is a long run.”

Meanwhile, Leighton still will be in Duluth during Grandma’s Marathon weekend. The band has a show June 20 at Clyde Iron Works.