September 7th 2002

Show Goes On

John Berry

Crowd down at Everly-less show, but organizers happy


By David Blackburn
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The area in front of the stage behind Central City Elementary School didn't fill up as fast as in past years Saturday night.

The crowd filtered in slowly, possibly waiting for the heat to abate. Maybe recent reports that a bird in Bremen was infected with the West Nile virus scared some off. Most likely, it was those factors and the absence of the Everly Brothers that resulted in about 4,500 to 5,000 people for Central City Music Festival XV.

That figure is down from the 7,000 or so who attended last year, when Phil and Don Everly announced they would no longer perform with their full band. Advance ticket sales to see the Bowling Green-based Fender Benders, John Berry and Neal McCoy ran about the same as last year -- 800 to 1,000. But "we weren't expecting as big a crowd," festival board chairman Mike Mercer said.

Peter Farley of Dorking, England, who was attending his seventh consecutive concert with his wife, Maureen, noticed a difference but didn't mind. "I have not met any people from other countries this year," Farley said. But he expected that since the Everly Brothers weren't returning. "We had already decided we'd come anyway because of all the friends we made in Greenville and Central City," Farley said. " ... We plan to come as long as it's a concert. We just love Kentucky; this county seems to have a lot of wonderful musicians."

"I think this date may hurt us some," Mercer said. Previous concerts were held the Saturday before Labor Day, not the Saturday afterward. After Labor Day is when people's vacations are over, travel is down and schools are back in session with their extracurricular activities, he said.

Gail Patton of Beaver Dam, who was attending her first Music Festival, disagreed. Patton said she and her husband usually are boating on Kentucky Lake on Labor Day weekend. Growing up as an Everly Brothers fan, she couldn't see them because of the conflict. "Now, I've got a choice," said Patton, who watched from the hillside behind the field with Pat Raley of Central City. Raley has attended all of the festivals except three -- when she was attending Labor Day weekend family reunions in Georgia. "My concern was, with the Everly Brothers not here, it would die out," Patton said. "But I feel if the quality of entertainment is like it is tonight and they continue to have it some weekend other than Labor Day, it should be bigger."

Anna Willis of Leitchfield, who grew up in Central City as an Everly Brothers fan, hasn't given up hope that they might return. "You get enough people wanting them to come back, maybe they'll come back," she said from her hillside seat. Willis, who was attending her third festival, brought niece Crystal Forman as a 12th birthday present. "I don't really listen to country that much -- I like rap -- but I like Neal McCoy and John Berry," said Forman, who watched her first concert ever with the help of binoculars.

They watched between the pre-show and the Fender Benders act as the Muhlenberg County Everly Brothers Fan Club presented a donation for the planned Everly Brothers Museum. Former club president Trent Peveler presented Margaret Everly of Nashville, the mother of Phil and Don, a symbolic $1,000 check. Margaret Everly is a contributor to, and will be curator of, the museum slated to built beside the Madisonville Community College campus in Central City.

The decrease in numbers didn't affect T-shirt sales, festival committee member Bonnie Richey said. The only hint of the Everly Brothers at the T-shirt tents were their likenesses on bags and "Home of the Everly Brothers" under the festival logo on shirts. "We had a lot of calls from John Berry's fans, and Neal McCoy's, wanting (shirts) with them on it," Richey said. "Plus, we have the American flag on it," she said of the shirt fronts. That was in keeping with tributes to the country as the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches.

Between Berry's and McCoy's sets, an Evansville bagpipe player was scheduled to perform "Amazing Grace" as a firefighter and a police officer from each county community was recognized. A fireworks display was slated for the end of McCoy's set, which was the same one he did when he performed for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Mercer said next year's festival committee will promote the second version of Friday night's Street Rod Cruise-In, in which 200 vintage cars and 3,000 people packed downtown.

Overall, Mercer was happy with the festival. "It was a good day," he said. "Everything's gone well; it's a good crowd."