Country Fest has record crowds for final day with HARDY, Morgan Wallen
CANTON – Tailgaters in the commuter parking lot at Country party were partying on a sunny and cool Saturday afternoon before the concerts even started.
Fans sat in the back of pickup trucks or gathered in chairs, listening to country music while sipping beer and other booze.
Hot dogs were grilled. The revelers played a drinking game called fist bump involving a hammer, a nail and a tree stump. Cornhole games were also happening.
“It’s a constant party,” Sierra Barr, 23, said of the jubilant, carefree vibe. “Country (music) people are all family.
“I took a week off for that,” the Pennsylvania resident said.
Barr’s friend, 22-year-old Pittsburgh-area Kylee McCarty, greeted a passerby in his tailgate with a smile and friendly conversation.
“I would take this on a beach vacation anytime,” the elementary school teacher and student said.
“Country music is my favorite,” she said. “There is a story behind every song.”
The vibe at Country Fest at Clay’s Resort Jellystone Park was all about good vibes. Earlier in the week, when campers and commuters flocked to the grounds, traffic had slowed down on Route 93, taking visitors a few hours to get to the event. But traffic was light at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday was the fourth and final day of Country Fest. Ernest, Larry Fleet, HARDY and Morgan Wallen closed the event. Earlier in the week, country music stars included Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert.
A few special events were also scheduled for Saturday night, including a flyby by Castle Aviation, based at Akron-Canton Airport.
A record crowd of around 25,000 was expected for Wallen’s show, according to Country Fest organizers. Fans had shown up in greater numbers earlier in the day than in previous years.
Wallen is considered the hottest touring act in all of music right now, Country Fest co-founder Aaron Green said recently.
Saturday fans frequently cited Wallen as their reason for attending Country Fest.
The event attracts genuine country music fans
Country Fest has also drawn fans from as far away as Alaska, Ireland and Australia.
Mike Perrault, 44, of Connecticut, said he made the trip at the insistence of his daughter, Allison Perrault, who took advantage of Country Fest last summer.
“Country music in Connecticut is a whole different environment,” the girl said as she stood atop a hill overlooking thousands of fans. “This is amazing.
“You’ll never look at country music in Connecticut the same way again after being here.”
Perrault band member Chase Eby added, “They’re genuine and passionate about their country music (at Country Fest).”
West Virginia teenager calls event ‘crushing’
Many fans were returning to the country music extravaganza for another year. Newbies were also in attendance, including 16-year-old Addison Newsome and 17-year-old Karli Smith, both of West Virginia.
“It’s probably going to be one of the most exciting times of my life,” Newsome said as he stood near a track connected to the main stage more than an hour before Ernest was due to perform.
Smith said she wanted to attend Country Fest after reading so many positive comments online about it from fans.
Wednesday’s Aldean concert was fantastic, she said.
“It was overwhelming,” said Smith, wearing a black cowboy hat. “I didn’t expect (the crowd) to be as big as it was.”
“You walk away from everything and just walk away.”
Rodney Isom, 57, traveled a few miles away for his summer ritual.
Cooking hot dogs, the North Lawrence resident offered one to a stranger.
“This is our eighth,” Isom said of Country Fest. “It’s such a good time – good music, good food, good camaraderie, good friends.
“You walk away from everything and just walk away,” the stagehand said. “For three days in a row, it’s definitely been a good getaway. We bought the whole (ticket) package for Morgan Wallen.”
Wallen’s chart-topping ‘Dangerous: The Double Album’ is packed with hit songs and catchy melodies, said Isom, who was joined by his wife, Colleen Isom and relative, Renee O’Connor of Virginia Beach. .
“I just think the lyrics resonate with a lot of people, and he’s young and up-and-coming,” Rodney Isom said of Wallen. “He went through a little ordeal there, and he fought back, and he puts his family and his love for his wife and kids first.”
Morgan Wallen beer and friends make for a good time
Not far from Isom’s group was Jessica Petkac, 33, of Cleveland, sipping a drink while relaxing in a chair. It was his fifth Country Fest.
“It’s like America, friends and country music,” she said of the massive event. “Everyone is having a great time. This festival is the biggest I’ve ever been to.”
Asked what makes Wallen such a high-profile attraction, Petkac’s friend Tiffany Browning, 34, said, “It’s like country, but it’s also a little rap.”
Petkac added, “He’s very versatile; you don’t have to be a country fan to listen to Morgan Wallen.”
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected] On Twitter: @ebalintREP.