By Konstantine Fekos
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP —
One thing was certain after Rodney Atkins left the grandstand Wednesday night at the 68th annual Crawford County Fair — he loves Crawford County and the local fans love him back.
Atkins, along with opening act Jana Kramer, charmed a crowd of thousands at the fairgrounds, waving and smiling to fans between guitar strums.
“It’s great coming to this area,” Atkins said prior to his headlining concert. “These are my kind of people.”
Wearing his Crawford County love on his sleeve, Atkins said he enjoyed his time at the fair so far, especially roaming around under sunny skies and beautiful weather.
The Crawford County Fair “is always a treat,” he said of prior trips to northwest Pennsylvania. “I love these people.”
Atkins’ open appreciation for Pennsylvania was returned tenfold by his local fanbase, which shouted a slew of howdies and yee-haws in honor of his arrival.
Country music lovers stomped in the grandstand bleachers while crowds swayed their hands and sang out loud on the racetrack below.
Banjos twanged and electric guitars rang shrill as Atkins and his band blasted hit tunes like “Farmer’s Daughter” and “About the South.”
A backdrop screen flashed a dazzling array of visual effects behind the band, occasionally showing clips from Atkins’ music videos.
“He’s a doll,” said Tina Achhammer, promotions director for Cumulus Media Erie, which operates WXTA-FM/Country 98.
Achhammer walked away from Atkins’ meet-and-greet before the show with autographed pictures and cowboy hats, items she says will be auctioned off for an upcoming benefit.
“I’ve seen him like eight times,” she said. “Any time I can see him, I’m there.”
The grandstand erupted with cheers and applause during a staged blackout in the song “He’s Mine” and when Atkins pitched his acoustic guitar over the heads of three bandmates and into the arms of a crew member clear across the stage.
“He’s a great performer,” Achhammer said. “He’s just fantastic.”
Fans apparently thought the same of Kramer, who inspired several standing ovations before passing the show on to Atkins.
One spectator was delighted to have his shirt passed upstage by a security guard for Kramer to sign.
“I feel like the luckiest man in the world,” said Eric Eller of Erie, whose shirt marked the “N” in “Jana,” alongside fellow fans displaying the other letters.
He proudly displayed his autographed T-shirt for passersby taking cellphone pictures between sets.
Another bold fan held up a large painted sign that read “Marry me” and “You’re mine,” complete with a phone number, for Kramer and Atkins, respectively.
As Kramer put it, country music fans are “the best fans out there.”
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.