For the third year in a row, Denny Grosse and Sharon Tyler hopped on a plane in Michigan, where it was in the low 40s Friday, and flew the 1,000 miles south to attend Bayou Country Superfest for what has become their annual vacation.
Grosse’s daughter bought the couple tickets three years ago for Christmas and they loved the annual country music supershow so much, that they keep coming back, especially for the meet-and-greet sessions with musicians at a tent outside Tiger Stadium in the Fan Fest area.
Something, the couple said, not every concert or event has.
“I love the entertainment and the people are very friendly,” Tyler, a former Michigan state representative and current county clerk for Berrien Country, said.
Tyler has become a professional meet-and-greeter, carrying her own markers and specific items in her purse for each person to sign, like pictures and CDs, and placing each item on her wall when she gets home to show the spoils of her travels.
They are not alone as thousands of out out-of-town fans descend upon the Capital City every year for Bayou Country Superfest, which is in its fifth year.
Opelousas father-daughter combo Jason and Tabbie Hargroder drove in Saturday morning for the concert after the daughter’s high school graduation Friday night.
The tickets were her graduation present from her father and she knew about them beforehand, but that did not dull her excitement Saturday.
According to Visit Baton Rouge, residents of 48 states and three countries bought tickets to see megastars George Strait, Reba McEntire, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and others strut across the Tiger Stadium stage.
But droves of fans also arrived at the free Fan Fest on Saturday morning outside the west gates to Tiger Stadium for acts like Mandeville native Courtney Cole and New Orleans’ Christian Serpas and Ghost Town.
Don Williams, guitarist for Christian Serpas and Ghost Town, said the band loves playing in Baton Rouge because he said he feels like the band’s music is more appreciated in the Capital City than their hometown of New Orleans. They have played at Superfest before, as well as smaller shows at the Varsity Theater and Chelsea’s.
Crowds began pouring into the Fan Fest area at about 11 a.m. on the second day of the three-day event, and first day of the Fan Fest, allowing fans to take advantage of the overcast skies to hear Cole, Ghost Town and CJ Solar Band while enjoying beers with family and friends before the big acts hit the stage beginning at 5 p.m.
“I love country music,” Haley Soileau, of Ville Platte, said. “I love the stars. I really would have liked to see Reba (McEntire) last night, but they were sold out.”
She and boyfriend Lucas Bordelon, of Mamou, were each first-time attendees and said they enjoyed their experience so far.
Several misting fans whirled around, giving fans some reprieve from the humidity while others tried to cool themselves with ice cold beer that was in constant supply.
Others enjoyed the Fan Fest music while sitting in line outside the gates, waiting to grab good seats on the field for Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan, who was clearly the most popular of the day’s acts based on the sheer amount of people wearing Luke Bryan shirts and fanning themselves with paper fans bearing Bryan’s smiling visage.
Fanning the buzz of Luke Bryan-mania were reports that he was seen walking down some of the side streets next to Tiger Stadium before his performance, posing for pictures and talking to fans.
He certainly is Brenna Villneurve’s favorite singer.
The 15-year-old from Gonzales joined her mother Allison LeBourgeois, younger sister Jacie Villneurve, 12, and other family members who traveled to Baton Rouge for the weekend.
LeBourgeois said she looked forward to seeing “the fabulous lineup” over the weekend including Aldean and Strait in addition to her daughter’s favorite singer.
“Great music in a great place,” LeBourgeois said.
Texas native Helen Rayon is also a big Luke Bryan fan and drove four hours Saturday morning from her home in Devers, Texas, to Baton Rouge with her daughter Alyssa Rayon, niece Mia Brown and sister Kristine Brown for Superfest.
Bryan just happened to be performing on the day Helen Rayon was able to get tickets for the four of them for Mia Brown’s birthday.
“Let’s just say it was a coincidence,” she said laughing, knowing no one believed her.
Another family that drove in for Saturday’s show was the Welch family from Amite County, Mississippi.
Wendell Welch bought four last-minute tickets for himself, wife Diane Welch, 13-year-old daughter Bridgette Welch and 23-year-old son Blake Welch after learning he and his son, both of whom work offshore, would share a rare weekend off together.
With his daughter’s birthday coming up, he decided it would be a good time for them to spend the day together.
“Everybody here is friendly,” Wendell Welch, who grew up in Central and used to go fishing at LSU Lakes, said. “I’ve never had a bad experience on campus.”
The women looked forward to seeing the major acts while Wendell Welch said he and his son were just going to drink beer and enjoy themselves, like a lot of other people at Fan Fest and Superfest.
“It’s nothing like being with a bunch of like-minded people,” he said.