1500 Free Tickets to Willie Nelson Concert in Choteau, Montana Gone in Less than Hour


Fans snap up Willie Nelson tickets

By Melody Martinsen- Acantha editor
The Choteau Jaycees distributed the first 1,500 free tickets for the July 3rd Willie Nelson concert to Teton County residents in less than an hour last Saturday morning, and it’s a safe bet that the final 1,500 tickets will be snapped up just as quickly today at 5 p.m.

People from out-of-county who were hoping to have a shot at any remaining tickets should check the Choteau Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.choteaumontana.com on May 17 before making a trip to Choteau on May 19 because there may not be any left after today’s disbursal.

The Choteau Jaycees, a local civic group that has been bringing a July 3rd concert to Choteau since the early 1990s, is organizing this year’s Willie Nelson concert, which is being underwritten by an anonymous supporter who is providing the tickets for free with the stipulation that Teton County residents get the first chance at 3,000 tickets.

More than 400 people from Bynum, Choteau, Dutton, Fairfield and Power showed up at Choteau High School on Saturday morning for the ticket disbursal and the first 375 folks in line went away with smiles on their faces and tickets in their pockets. They were not allowed onto school property via a gate at the northeast corner of the student parking until 6 a.m., but people began forming a line as early as 2:45 a.m. when Ron and Shari Burgess of Choteau showed up. The majority of the people arrived between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., and anyone who got there after about 6:15 a.m. didn’t get a ticket.

People brought water bottles and snacks, lawn chairs, books and puzzles, and even cards and cribbage boards to pass the four-hour wait until 10 a.m. when the disbursal started. They chatted with each other, appreciated the beautiful weather and kibitzed about the concert, the anonymous donor, and the Choteau Independence Day bash.

Former Choteau Mayor Roger Kelly, who was standing in line with his wife, Carol, at 5:40 a.m., said the disbursal went “much smoother than expected.” He was one of three members of the Choteau High School Class of 1963, standing or sitting in line. “Everyone’s laughing and happy to be here,” he said.

He said the concert will be another fun event for people in town to attend and just one of the many events scheduled for the Fourth of July week.

Certified nursing assistant Kristy Nelson of Choteau was also in line with friends. “I hope I get the 4th of July off after sitting here for four hours,” she said.

Choteau Elementary School Principal Chuck Gameon said the people in line were friendly and hospitable – nothing like the mad crowds you see in Billings on the day after Thanksgiving shopping sales, he said. “This is kind of decent,” he added, smiling and visiting with friends.

The first people in line, the Burgesses, said they were thrilled at the chance to get tickets. “My husband wouldn’t sit through a concert for anything in the world, but for Willie Nelson, he’ll fight the crowds,” she said.

She said he got off work at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, came home and woke her up. They bundled up and spent the next few hours in the cold early morning, waiting for the chance to be in line. Shari, who walks with a cane, said the next earliest folks came around 4:30 a.m. and most people arrived between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., forming a line in the street off school property on the north side of the campus.

Mary Tonkovich of Choteau, No. 255 in line, grew up in Dupuyer and said her family came to the Fourth of July celebration in Choteau every year when she was a kid. She and her husband saw Nelson about 22 years at Lake Tahoe and they are thrilled to get to see him again. “We’re pretty big fans,” she said.

Cheri Goss, who works for the town of Dutton, was a few more spaces down the line. “How can you pass up Willie Nelson in Choteau?” she asked. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Goss said she was impressed with the organization of the event and complimented the Jaycees for their system.

Choteau senior citizen Edith Hanson, watching everyone visit as they stood in line, said, “It’s a happening. It’s fun.”

While lots of people talked about the possibility of unscrupulous people scalping tickets, as of Monday afternoon, there were Willie Nelson tickets for sale on ebay, but none for the Choteau concert. Annetta Weinert, who stood in line with her husband Jim, to get tickets for their family, said, “Nobody’s going to have enough money to buy these tickets from me.”

Jaycee Concert Co-Chairwoman Jenny Lee said she thought the disbursal went smoothly overall though not everyone was happy with the system and not everyone who wanted tickets got them.

She also offered a few reminders for today’s ticket disbursal:

€People who already received tickets on May 12 are not eligible for any more on May 16. Their names are on a list and they will not be given more tickets.

€No one will be allowed on school property until 4 p.m. when the gate at the northeast corner of the student parking lot (on the north side of the school) will be opened. The Jaycees are discouraging people from trying to line up before 2:30 p.m. because school will be in session until 2 p.m. and that area – the high school student parking lot and the streets on all sides of the school – will be busy with traffic and buses when classes dismiss. That said, however, the line will likely start forming hours ahead of the 4 p.m. gate opening. The ticket disbursal will begin at 5 p.m.

€People should bring photo identification that shows their current address. If they do not have a photo ID with an address, they should bring at least two other forms of identification that show their name and residence.

€Every Teton County resident in line who is 18 years old or older with appropriate ID can receive up to four tickets while supplies last. Mathematically speaking, that means the first 375 people in line are guaranteed tickets if everyone takes four tickets, but anyone after that number may or may not get a ticket.

€People are still welcome to submit their names on a postcard marked, “Willie Nelson Concert Ticket Lottery,” and mail it to the Jaycees, P.O. Box 274, Choteau, MT. Drawings for 200 tickets will be held June 1, 8, 15 and 22, and each person drawn will receive two tickets.

Twenty-five winners will be drawn each week. Once a person’s name has been drawn, his or her name will be removed from the drawing. Winners will be announced in the Choteau Acantha.

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