Brendan Handy gives Rouse Outdoors a thumbs up at the 2011 Country Stampede.
Country Stampede 2011 began on Thursday, June 23, for many country music fans. However, for me it began on Friday.
I made the annual trip to Manhattan, KS, with my best friend from high school Brendan Handy and my mom, who has been taking me to the Stampede each year since my senior year of high school. It's kind of a tradition.
This year's lineup was exciting for me because two musical guests who are well known for their fishing songs (Brad Paisley and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) would be in attendance. Brad Paisley is one of my all-time favorite musicians, but we had to wait until 9:30 p.m. on Saturday to hear him. Instead, we got a chance to listen to a legendary band Friday in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as Lady Antebellum, the headliner, and Joe Nichols. We arrived at the Stampede at just around 5 p.m., grabbed a turkey leg and a drink from the concession stands and went to find our seats near the middle of the crowd on the right side. However, before we even got seated, we heard a familiar voice over the videoboard. In front of the entire park, WIBW meteorologist Jeremy Goodwin proposed to his girlfriend Nichole Pemberton, who is sisters with one of my friends from high school. She said "Yes," and the crowd roared in approval. Then the music kicked off.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band started off with a song I'd never heard that was pretty funny called "Cosmic Cowboy." One of the lines from the song was "Gotta a big raccoon and a harvest moon" if that tells you anything. They played a lot of bluegrass and I was pretty impressed with them. It was still pretty hot outside when they played, but they cooled us down with a classic song they wrote for Rascal Flatt's called "Bless the Broken Road." They played a few more songs before finishing big with "Fishin' in the Dark," which was one of my favorite childhood songs. It was really impressive to watch live because the drummer played harmonica while drumming, which I can only imagine is a difficult task.
As the summer sun began to settle behind some clouds, the air cooled a bit more and we relaxed in our chairs. The crazy people at the Stampede are half the show, in all honesty. One drunk lady came stumbling by us and asked Brendan if he was from Massachusetts. Another drunk, this time a guy, came up and danced on my mom for a bit. An old man in front of us wearing a cowboy hat made out of beer boxes would dance like a madman everytime the bands played a cover of a classic rock song. Just another trip to Country Stampede.
Joe Nichols came up next and had a great show, using the catwalk to come out into the crowd a lot more than Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and really keeping the audience in the show. He was funny and swooned the ladies in the crowd quite often, which is always entertaining. He played some classic original songs and a few covers, including "Baby Got Back." Freaking hilarious.
As the sun set behind the dam during the Joe Nichols show, the excitement of Lady Antebellum filled the air. More and more people kept piling into the crowd, which seemed rather empty when we first got to the park. Heck, we didn't even have to wait in line to get in. With the sun down completely, Lady Antebellum took the stage and put on an amazing show. Very high energy, some great covers along with their own songs and excellent crowd involvement. Definitely one of the better headliners I've seen, but I'm still excited to see Brad Paisley again. The last time he performed at Country Stampede, it was the best show I'd ever seen, followed closely by Big & Rich's first Country Stampede performance, which was just insane.
Overall, I had a great time on Friday and I can't wait to head back Saturday evening and see Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Jerrod Neimann. I'll be sure to post more videos from the Stampede!