Columbia County officials are looking forward to more big events now that the opening of Evans Towne Center Park is complete.
Friday’s dedication concert by hometown band Lady Antebellum was a rousing success despite drizzling rain throughout the evening, Columbia County Recreation and Events Manager Stacie Adkins said.
“Overall, we are very pleased and everyone seemed to enjoy the concert,” Adkins said, noting that concerns for future events include the need for additional trash receptacles, better seating placement and more work on traffic flow.
“There are no major problems, just some adjustments” needed, she said.
The next major event scheduled for the new park and the Lady Antebellum Pavilion is the county’s annual Christmas in America tree-lighting festival, set for Dec. 3, Adkins said, and a series of concerts planned for spring 2012.
For their part, the members of Lady Antebellum said they were thrilled to be performing in their hometown, and “humbled” with the naming honors they received for the new facility.
In a news conference before their sold-out performance, vocalist Charles Kelley recalled playing gigs at Red Lion Pub on Walton Way as a teen and says many people in this area helped him reach the success he enjoys today with bandmates Dave Haywood, who also grew up in Columbia County, and Hillary Scott.
“They take ownership in our success, and they should,” Kelley said of area fans.
A song off the band’s new album, Own the Night, called Dancing With My Heart, is about his experiences growing up in the community, Kelley said.
Haywood joked that he has “more family here than I’ve seen in years” at the concert.
Though Lady A has played venues throughout the world, nothing compares to performing at home, Haywood said.
“It’s a different kind of special … a heart-warming special,” he said.
Kelley and Haywood grew up in Columbia County and graduated from Lakeside High School. To honor that connection, county officials named the new performance venue after the band.
“It’s beautiful,” Scott said of the pavilion. “The acoustics are fantastic.”
The hometown connection for Haywood and Kelley was recognized before the group took to the stage with an unveiling of a plaque dedicating the pavilion to them.
The excitement of such an honor so early in their careers seemed to add some pep to the performance.
“I’m not going to be able to sit down; not in my hometown,” Kelley declared as he abandoned his stool, leading the group through an hourlong concert that even included bringing a young girl on stage for an impromptu performance of a snippet from her favorite artist, Justin Bieber.
The event concluded with the trio being brought back on stage by Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who asked them to perform an a capella rendition of the national anthem as the soundtrack for a surprise ending to the concert: A fireworks show launched from nearby Marshall Square.