Hunter Hayes concert at 4-H fair runs smoother than Tuesday

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Nico Savidge
Thursday, July 25, 2013

JANESVILLE—In the 52 years they have lived across the street from the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, Bill and Linda Dooley had never seen a crowd as big as Tuesday night.

Looking out from their porch Thursday evening, though, they said things were decidedly calmer. Like any other night at the fair.

After a record-breaking crowd of more than 30,000 people overwhelmed the fairgrounds Tuesday, organizers and law enforcement officials increased security for Thursday.

Although thousands turned out to see country singer Hunter Hayes' sold-out performance at the grandstand, neighbors and officials said the grounds were decidedly less crowded Thursday.

“No comparison,” Linda Dooley said. “That first night—that was bad.”

On Tuesday, the line to enter a gate near her home stretched down the block. Strangers offered Dooley as much as $20 to use her bathroom. Two nights later, the street was mostly empty. There was no wait to get into the fair.

Rock County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jude Maurer credited the quieter night in part to the grandstand show requiring an extra ticket, and selling out well in advance.

There was no extra ticket required to see Florida Georgia Line play Tuesday night.That meant throngs of people showed up looking for a spot in the grandstand, Maurer said.

“We knew Hunter Hayes was also going to attract a large crowd,” Maurer said. “Thus far, having the ticket has created a much different environment than what we saw Tuesday night.”

The crowd meant the 16 officers scheduled to staff the fair Tuesday had to call in extra help.

On Thursday night, though, Maurer said “several dozen” deputies and officers were spread around the fairgrounds, and the grandstand was “much more controlled.”

The event wasn't entirely placid, however.

Hundreds of Hunter Hayes fans lined up hours before his 8 p.m. performance, forming a line that stretched four or five people deep the length of the grandstand at one entrance.

The line ended in a mob at the gates, which proved too chaotic for Sue Rodriguez and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Allysa.

“She was in the middle of it and they started pushing and stepping on her,” Rodriguez said.

As she spoke, one of the deputies charged with managing the crowd tried to keep order behind her.

“There's people up here—stop pushing!” he shouted. “Just calm down, you guys will get in.”

The gates eventually opened and the mostly young, female crowd streamed onto the grandstand grass with little incident.

Rodriguez and her granddaughter eventually found a spot on the grass, which on Tuesday she said was completely occupied.

On this night, though, they could stand in open space near the edge of the crowd, as young girls in Hunter Hayes shirts—some bought from a merchandise tent, others homemade and hand-drawn—milled around.

When Hayes bounded on stage at 8 p.m. sharp to start his set, a loud response filled the evening air and an army of cellphone cameras emerged from the crowd to get a photo of the singing star.

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