When Larry the Cable Guy showed up at Country Concert earlier this month, he was not a favorite of the vendors.
"I actually had one of the vendors ask me, 'How long is this guy going to go? We're not selling anything.'" Jim Prenger, the promoter for the event said with a chuckle. "I've never seen it where you literally had people standing the whole time, hanging on every word, wondering what he was going to say next."
Jeff Foxworthy's buddy was the star of the festival's third night, which drew the largest crowd of 19,920. Carrie Underwood and Montgomery Gentry had 14,369 people at their show on opening night. Keith Anderson, Phil Vassar, Dierks Bentley, and Alan Jackson had 18,989 for the show on July 8. On July 9, 16,721 people were at Hickory Hill Lakes campground in Fort Loramie, Ohio, to see Jamie O'Neal, Blake Shelton, Neal McCoy, and Lonestar.
Combined, 69,999 people attended the festival, down about 6 percent from last year, but the total made organizers happy.
"I think it had a little to do with gas prices, but we also had Tim McGraw last year (his show had about 25,000 people), and he really hit a home run," Prenger said.
Country Concert '06 marked the first year for a state-of-the-art stage and sound system that artists had been requesting for years.
"When you build a new stage, there's always the danger that things aren't going to work, but it worked beautifully," Prenger said. "As far as the new sound system, the show was as good 1,000 feet back as 100 feet back."
Four days of brilliant sunshine made for an abundance of sunburns and good times. Before the four-day festival began, agents from the Ohio Department of Public Safety stated that they were going to be targeting underage drinking, and they were true to their word as undercover agents patrolled the crowd. According to the agency's Web site, 135 citations were issued this year for underage drinking. The increased efforts yielded 19 more citations than the year before.
"We support [the agents] being there. We really work with them. It's not a negative to us because we cooperate completely with them. We think it's made the event better," Prenger said.
As for the music, there weren't any complaints. If anything, ticket holders mentioned how many of the artists were better than they were expecting.
"People really liked Carrie Underwood. I think a lot of people were wondering if she is the real deal or just a product of a TV show, but she's got a great voice and stage presence," Prenger said.
Prenger and his wife, Connie, are already preparing for Country Concert '07 by sending surveys to this year's ticket holders.
"We want to know who people want to see and what we can do better," Prenger said.
Michelle Poe, who grew up in Toledo before moving away and eventually joining the band of Dierks Bentley, now has a new gig. Poe is playing bass for Hank Williams, Jr. Michelle and Hank will be at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich., on Sept. 1.
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