So you say there’s nothing to do in Lima?
You could’ve seen country star Sara Evans entertain a crowd at the Civic Center on Saturday night. Or you could’ve made the short 30-minute trek to Van Wert to have Bob Eubanks entertain you with the “Not So Newlywed Show.” Or hit one of a number of local establishments inside Lima, offering live music, comedy or theater.
The only way there’s nothing to do here is if you’re not trying.
I got to thinking about this earlier this week when Toby Keith, a household name, announced this week his 2014 tour includes a stop in Lima for the final day of the Allen County Fair.
That’s just a few weeks after Scotty McCreery, a Nashville up-and-comer who won over the country on American Idol, announced he’d perform at the Civic Center in April for a St. Jude Children’s Hospital benefit concert.
And Trace Adkins was just in Van Wert a few months ago at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. And never mind the superstar circus that will come with Country Concert in Fort Loramie in July.
This area’s starting to become a bit of a country music concert hotbed. If you like country music but none of the names Adkins, Evans, Keith or McCreery get you excited, then maybe you don’t really like country music.
The refrain is always, though: There’s nothing to do in Lima. We’re “Lost In Middle America,” as the documentary claimed. Yet we have these enviable entertainment options.
I laugh when I hear people say driving to Niswonger in Van Wert is “too far.” It’s a Northwestern Ohio perspective, I suppose. I recall driving about 35 miles out of my way once in rural Virginia looking for a gas station, much less top-notch entertainment.
I also chuckle when people claim the tickets are overpriced. The cheapest tickets for Evans’ concert at the Civic Center on Saturday started at $29. When she’s in Aurora, Ill., on April 11, the cheapest tickets start at $33.50.
When Keith’s tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. March 8 on allencofair.com for his performance at the Allen County Fairgrounds, the lowest price is $42 for grandstand and bleachers. That’s for a Saturday night show. When he sings on a Monday night at Blossom Music Center near Cleveland, tickets start at $43. When he’s in Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center for a Friday night, tickets start at $45.
McCreery’s tickets are in line too, at $36 and up for a Friday night show on April 18, available on limaciviccenter.com. Sure, you can see him in Nashville on Tuesday for $29, if you don’t mind driving to Nashville to sit in balcony seats on a Tuesday.
I’m not saying those tickets are cheap by any means. That’s a fair amount of money for a night out, listening to someone sing to you. But these shows are so much more than a man on stage singing. They’ve become multimedia spectacles.
I’m not sure I could tell you much about how the singing was when Big and Rich were at the Allen County Fairgrounds in 2006. But I can tell you it was a great time and quite a spectacle. And that’s what these kinds of events are, a spectacle.
This year gives our region an opportunity to step up and show it can support these types of events.
I recognize we’re not showing a great diversity of events here. Country music isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer hard rocking music. Some people would rather see a pop act. Others would rather see classic rock, or folk, or bluegrass. That’s the challenge of putting these kinds of events on, to find someone who overlaps with enough personal tastes to make it a successful venture. After all, the promoters don’t want to lose money, and the artist doesn’t want to perform to a half-empty, apathetic crowd.
But it’s a good start. It’s our chance to show this city and this region can support big entertainment options. If we let the opportunity pass, then the shows will continue to go elsewhere. Then we’ll be back to driving to Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus for big-name entertainment.
The only way there will be nothing to do here is if you’re not trying.