BY LAVILLA CAPENER • AND JEFF STARCK • AUGUST 5, 2010
One of the hottest bands in the country stormed Marathon Park on Wednesday evening, delighting an estimated 10,000 fans who packed the Wisconsin Valley Fair.
The 1,000 reserved-seating tickets for Lady Antebellum's show sold out in five minutes when they went on sale April 30, according to fair officials. That didn't deter the hundreds of fans hoping to get seats, and many waited in a line stretching from the park's grandstand to Stewart Avenue on Wednesday afternoon. Photos from the show
The line started forming at 7:30 a.m., and die-hard fans who got there first withstood intense sunshine and temperatures that reached 84 degrees to secure their spots.
More Wisconsin Valley Fair coverage These links will open in a new window.
The Grammy Award-winning band that has topped album-sales charts this year didn't disappoint, playing from 7:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m.
So many fans flowed into the park that fair organizers opened an overflow area behind the stage that started filling at about 6 p.m., said Lt. Jim Wadinski of the Wausau Police Department. The main gates were open at the concert's start and remained open throughout the show. Wadinski estimated that about 10,000 people were in attendance.
When Lady Antebellum finally stepped onto the stage, the crowd erupted in a roar of cheers and applause that echoed across the fairgrounds.
Flashes from digital cameras lighted the night as crowd members clapped in rhythm and fist-pumped to their favorite songs, "Need You Now" and "I Run to You."
Mary Hamann, 49, and Kris Schar, 37, both of Marshfield, took the day off from work and got to the east-side entrance of the grandstand at 7:30 a.m. Seeing no one there, they grabbed breakfast and returned at 8:30 a.m. and still were first in line.
"There was all this talk about the crowd. We just had to be here," Schar said. "Lady Antebellum is awesome."
By noon, the lines stretched through the park and those standing near Stewart Avenue couldn't even see the grandstand through the trees. The trees provided concertgoers some much-needed shade, said Mary Jo Beyer, 44, of Merrill, who sought refuge under the tall pines with her two
daughters as they waited.
Many of those in line came equipped for a long day of waiting. Some passed the time playing card games such as Uno and war, or listening to iPods.
Police took a few complaints of people cutting in line and had to move the crowd to avoid blocking park entrances in some places. But as of show time Wednesday evening, Wausau officers monitoring the lines reported no other problems.
At 3 p.m., Lady Ante-bellum fans sprinted past fair security guards who opened the padlocked gates to the grandstands. One man was seen running with a child tucked under his arm like a football. While no one was trampled, there was plenty of jostling for the best seats. All 4,500 grandstand seats were filled in less than 15 minutes, leaving thousands of people to scramble for grassy hillsides or seats on the ground.
Fair organizers didn't turn anyone away from the show, though some, including Mike Balz, 25, and Heather Homeyer, 24, both of Marathon, had to stand outside the grandstand gates after arriving late. Although they were a few feet outside of the show, they said they still had a clear view and were away from the crowd.
"If you can see, then you're in a good spot," Balz said. "It's pretty cool they (Lady Antebellum) came to Wausau."
Why the excitement over Lady Antebellum? For some people in line, it was the group's country-styled lyrics, while others said it was the experience of seeing a Grammy Award-winning band play live.
"(Lady Antebellum) brought a lot of attention and business to the area," said Adam Becker, 22, of Wausau. "This is one of the few shows they've done in Wisconsin, and they are one of the biggest country acts."