by Erin McCracken
Freedom came to York Memorial Day.
And she made sure to wear a cowboy hat.
Just after 4 p.m. Monday, Freedom Mimnall, 32, of Wrightsville, sat in a Sovereign Bank Stadium suite.
“It’s not too often that you have these people coming into York itself,” she said of Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown. The outdoor amphitheater tour featuring country stars Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Lee Brice stopped in York Monday.
Some fans, including Dave Jennings, 47, of West York, lined up at noon at the ballpark’s gates, even though they didn’t open until 3 p.m.
Jennings sported the Throwdown logo on his right arm. He got the tattoo in February, even before concert tickets went on sale. His cowboy hat provided some protection from the sun’s rays.
The heat was too much for a few fans, who were treated by EMTs at the stadium. The goal was to keep everyone hydrated, said Gary Taylor, Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center marketing director.
By 4 p.m., the stadium’s thermometer read 96 degrees as fans wandered around the stadium. The turnout was less than half of the 7,000 people Strand officials expected.
Mimnall said she was lucky. Her VIP ticket afforded her food and beverages in an air-conditioned loft as well as an acoustic performance by Houser just after 4:15.
“I’m going out with my flip-flips on today,” he said with a laugh before he broke into his hit “Boots On.”
About 40 VIP ticketholders listened and they snapped photos with phones and digital cameras.
“This is a great celebration,” Houser said after his three-song set. He added that he’d play another acoustic set with Lee Brice later that night.
Even though Houser might have been in party mode while sipping a Yuengling, he didn’t forget what Monday meant.
“We especially appreciate American soldiers and veterans,” he said.
Bantley Gilbert, who played the Throwdown’s second stage, said he talked to his cousin — a Marine serving in Afghanistan — Sunday.
“He’s doing good,” Gilbert said. “He gets to come home soon.”
While on the tour, Gilbert and several other performers said the crew and the other musicians become family.
Lukas Nelson — Willie Nelson’s son and the lead singer of Promise of the Real — said that he carries his guitar around backstage to see if anyone wants to jam. “I’m trying to branch out and get to know everyone,” he said.
The Throwdown also marked the first event time the Strand and York Revolution worked together for an event.
“At a venue that’s not tested, there are going to be kinks,” said Austin Lucas, who performed on the Bluebird Café Stage. But the fact that the stadium hasn’t hosted any multi-star shows could be an advantage, he added.
“You always remember the first one,” he said.
Read Mr. McCracken’s entire article HERE.
For details about Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown and to download music, visit www.countrythrowdown.com.