The one awe-stricken comment I heard Friday, before, during and after the Lady Antebellum concert, was a variation on the same theme: This? Is in Columbia County?
Having bonafide home-town stars walking around was a pretty big deal, but most of the giddiness seemed reserved for the venue itself.
Evans Towne Center Park is a pretty remarkable place. That’s probably evident more from the hordes of people swarming over it when there’s nothing organized, like Sunday, than when there’s a big event, like Friday.
But there was something practically breathtaking about Friday, with roughly 5,000 people taking up every surrounding parking place to get onto what not long ago was a cow pasture.
You don’t have to be a geezer to remember, not so long ago, when the whole block was a hayfield with nothing but a navigational radar beacon for guiding airplanes in the middle of it. The transformation is amazing, and that’s most evident when the entire 19 acres is swamped with people happily awaiting a concert by one of the top bands in the country, who just happen to be from right here.
It was drizzly, the lines for everything from food to beer to bathrooms were long, and some of the arranged seating blocked what would have been some good views.
But holy cow. It was a tremendous night, with a phenomenal show, and even finished up with the rockets’ red glare as fireworks exploded during Lady Antebellum’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Yeah, I know. There are plenty of critics (me included) of the park, its amenities, its cost, its duplication to some degree of other nearby features.
But you know what? That negative point of view not only lost; Friday night it was buried deeply, relegated to about as much historical insignificance as those long-gone hay bales.
Sometimes vision exceeds criticism and cynicism, and this certainly is one of those times. And I couldn’t be happier.
Next up: We’re moving Christmas in America, the lighting of Columbia County’s official Christmas tree, to Evans Towne Center Park this year. The tree hasn’t been planted yet (and I’m not quite sure when it will be), but it will be located in the middle of the park, just behind the Lady Antebellum Pavilion.
The celebration will be Saturday, Dec. 3, as always the day before the Columbia County Merchants Association Christmas Parade.
Other than the improved community visibility of the tree, I’d expect we’ll also get even more participation (if that’s even possible) from elementary students singing in the mass chorus because so many will want the opportunity to perform on the same stage as Lady Antebellum.
Mark your calendars.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes oneline.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/