FORT LORAMIE — The threat of rain passed concertgoers by as Country Concert kicked off Thursday.
The three-day concert started with Neal McCoy taking the Main Stage at 4 p.m., after playing a few songs an hour before his set. He spent much of his performance engaging with the crowd, commanding them to sing along, mashing his music up with hits like Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and signing hats.
“I’ve been coming since 1987. I started out there (in the general section) and worked my way to front stage. It’s the love of music, the love of fellowship, and it’s close to home, it’s just enjoyable,” Fort Loramie native Carrie Sturwold said. “Some people say that it’s out of control, but it’s not, really. It’s just kids having fun, letting loose with their friends, adults having fun, fellowship with their friends, and a whole lot of country music in between.”
Country Concert 2021 is returning for its 40th anniversary after being one of several cancellations in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with most of the artists that were originally set to come for the 2020 concert returning to entertain a nearly sold-out crowd.
“It’s been two years in the making. There was not a chapter like this in our history to refer to, but, with the cooperation of the artists, fans and support groups, we were able to reorganize, regroup and move forward with an amazing lineup and facility that is more prepared than ever for an event,” Paul Barhorst said. “Due to the awesome response by so many fun-loving people and long-time supporters that have made our event possible, we are approaching our capacity. What a great way to celebrate our 40th event. It is a real possibility that we could sell out. We still have some tickets left for each day, but they are selling fast. We still have camping available as well.”
While many people returned to Country Concert after a year of anticipation, there were many fresh faces in the crowd, some traveling as far as Oklahoma to drink in the live music.
“I saw a video on TikTok with the lineup. My mom is from Ohio, so she’s excited,” Emma Cosby said.
Emma traveled from Blanchard, Oklahoma, with her mother, Erin Cosby and friend Grace Minton to attend the concert. Emma celebrated her 16th birthday Thursday, and was most looking forward to Luke Combs’ set that evening. According to Erin, they don’t go to concerts often, so this was a unique way to celebrate Emma’s birthday.
“This is great! Everyone has been so nice, wonderful and helpful,” Erin said. “We like country music, and it sounded fun.”
Also traveling from out of state was Tina Griffin, Damien Griffin and Nicole Myers, all from Frederick, Maryland, and Collin Rullo, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Like the Cosbys and Minton, this is their first Country Concert. However, they’re all used to attending concerts, frequently traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend live shows. For Country Concert, they went all out, getting front stage passes for the full weekend and camping next to the gate.
“We lucked out because we decided to camp and we got a spot two minutes away walking distance, on the water. It makes it even better,” Tina said. “I’m looking forward to Jon Pardi, Luke Combs and Jason Aldean. We’ve seen all of them, and we’re here to see them again.”
“We’re already talking about reserving the same camping spot next year,” Myer said.
Following Neal McCoy’s 4 p.m. performance on the Main Stage was Ashley McBryde, Jon Pardi, and Luke Combs as the headliner at 10 p.m.
The lineup for Friday, July 9 is as follows:
4 p.m. Lorrie Morgan
6 p.m. Riley Green
8 p.m. Justin Moore
10 p.m. Alan Jackson
3 p.m. Hannah Dasher
5 p.m. McGuffey Lane
7 p.m. Bellamy Brothers
9:15 p.m. Jesse Keith Whitley
To purchase tickets, or book camping, visit www.countryconcert.com, or call 937-295-3000.