DECATUR – Christine Cobren was one of the first to arrive for Saturday night's performance by Bret Michaels at Decatur Celebration.
“I will wait hours to see him,” said Cobren, 45, of Decatur.
Cobren and her daughter, Cassie, 11, staked out their place at the edge of the fence eight hours before Michaels was scheduled to perform on the Show Stage. Throughout the day, other fans began setting up the chairs, but none had the center, front spot. Cobren sat in the free area directly behind the VIP section.
Any opportunity Cobren has to meet the rock star, she takes it. He often sells backstage passes for his fans. Cobren usually takes advantage of the offer, but missed the Celebration's special sale due to knee surgery. She was able to purchase a backstage pass from the musician himself shortly before Saturday's concert. After the show, Cobren and her daughter met Michaels with other paying fans. The cost of the special meeting was $200.
“I meet-and-greet every time I see him, because the money goes to his diabetes foundation (Life Rocks Foundation),” Cobren said. “My mom and my brother both have diabetes.”
Saturday's Celebration provided all fans with ideal weather with high temperatures reaching the upper 70s. The crowds for the Heinkel's Hot Dog Eating Contest, vendors and other venues were typical for the outdoor festival, despite the added security fence.
Executive Producer Lori Sturgill is happy with the crowds she has seen so far.
“I think things are going great,” she said. “We were looking at the crowds last (Friday) night. People were having a good time.”
Sturgill was unaware of any security issues.
“If it's something that I'm not aware of, then it probably isn't something big,” she said.
Today's weather forecast, that includes an 80 percent chance of rain, has Sturgill worried. Today's highlights include hip-hop artist Nelly on the Show Stage, Christian artists 7eventh Time Down and Celebration favorite Here Come the Mummies. The Miss Illinois Festival Pageant will be held inside the Decatur Civic Center.
“We try to shield ourselves as much as we can from the weather, but you never know what is going to happen,” she said. “We are hoping it gets it all out of its system overnight.”
Organizers know people come out when the weather is beautiful. However, even two hours of rain can affect sales. “Every single hour counts,” Sturgill said.
So far, Sturgill believes there have been no obvious problems at the festival.
She said the fences went up smoothly. Her long-time volunteers helped with the installation, making an easy process.
Some attending have voiced their opinions of the surrounding fence and wristbands.
Security volunteer Tonya Jagger had to turn people without a wristband away or direct them to another line. Otherwise, most of the grievances she has experienced haven't been about the new surrounding fence.
“The only complaint I've heard are the people who want to bring in outside food and beverages,” she said. “Sorry, you can't bring anything in.”
Linda Johnson, 71, heard through the grapevine senior citizens would be able to get into the Celebration for free. Her information was incorrect. Johnson arrived at the security gates expecting to simply walk in.
“We went through several people explaining our predicament and they were just dumbfounded,” Johnson said. “They didn't know anything about it.”
Johnson walked from a nearby parking lot, then had to find a opening that would let them in. She eventually purchased a wristband for $8.
“But once I got in here, I enjoyed myself,” she said.