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Concert unplugged; quiet returns to village

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Spectators with backstage passes have a bird's eye view of performers at Country Concert 2001 in Fort Loramie.


FORT LORAMIE, Ohio - After four days, this village can rest.

The scantily clad college coeds are gone; the giant beer bottle has been deflated, and the campers have pulled out of Hickory Hill Lakes campground. Left behind are crushed beer cans and destroyed lawn chairs that Country Concert workers rake into piles on the festival grounds.

For the first time since Thursday, Jim Prenger, the promoter, isn't riding around on his scooter with a CB radio strapped to his shirt.

“It's a physically taxing job, and an emotional job with lots of things on the line,” he said. “Just like show business, the timing has to be right.”

Mr. Prenger and festival organizers had a little bad luck this year.

The biggest day of the festival, Saturday, was plagued by thunderstorms that rolled through the area.

“If people looked out their window while they were deciding what to do, and it was raining, I'm sure that affected their decision,” he said.


Mary Barhorst, owner of Al's Bar and Grill in Fort Loramie, Ohio, serves a hectic breakfast to customers in town for the concert. Ms. Barhorst said this is the first year the restaurant opened for breakfast to take advantage of the concert crowd, and she was glad to see the weekend end.


The paid attendance was 49,269 for the entire weekend, a total that was off 6 to 8 percent from last year. Attendance the first two days was up, but Mr. Prenger estimated the festival lost about $30,000 to $40,000 in business on Saturday because of the rain.

By yesterday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Public Safety had closed its command post outside the front gate.

Final figures of arrests were not available, but Brent Devery of the agency said he expected more than 100 arrests for underage drinking. About a dozen plainclothes officers patrolled the grounds looking for violators.

Lt. Dan Wildermuth of the Shelby County sheriff's department reported few problems. Five people were arrested Thursday night for minor violations, another couple on Friday, and he did not know the figures for Saturday and yesterday.

“What we've had is the normal underage drinking, disorderly conduct arrests. No shootings or stabbings,” Lieutenant Wildermuth said. “It's about as well-behaved of a crowd as we've ever had.”


Joann Weaver of Paulding tries to photograph one of the performers while keeping her cigarette intact during the concert at the Hickory Hill Lakes campground in Fort Loramie.


One deputy from the department was injured while directing traffic out of the campground Saturday night. He was struck by a vehicle and suffered a leg injury, although it was not broken.

Ryan Vail of Oregon sustained the most serious injury of the festival during the bull riding event Thursday night. He was kicked and broke his leg in several places, said his friend, Bob Gillespie of Holland. Mr. Vail was flown to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Toledo. By yesterday, he had returned in a wheelchair to watch Travis Tritt close the show.

For others in the crowd, Mr. Tritt's final note at just past 7 meant the party was over.

“Monday is going to be dragging,” Jake Griffith of Continental, Ohio, said. “I'm going home and going to sleep.”

Throughout the day, members of the crowd were buzzing about the stunt Neal McCoy pulled when he climbed to the top of the festival stage and began rapping.

“That was a first. No entertainer has ever been on the roof in 21 years. That was pretty special,” Mr. Prenger said.

Then he's off. Country Concert 2002 is less than a year away.

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