Neither Travis Tritt nor Hunter Hayes had ever played Aberdeen before Thursday night, but the opening night of grandstand entertainment at the Brown County Fair was still a reunion of sorts.
At least for some fans.
Tritt, for instance, has been to northeast South Dakota to hunt pheasants before, said C.J. Lapp of Eureka and Robert Patterson of Aberdeen, a fact Tritt verified early in his show.
Tritt and some of his family members have shot birds on Lapp's land, and that's how the local men have come to know the country star, Lapp said.
Tritt's father-in-law is a close friend of one of Patterson's childhood buddies, Patterson said. That friendship sparked the hunting partnership.
The two men said that while Tritt is a country star with a hit-filled show, he's also down-to-earth and likable.
Patterson said he didn't know if he and Lapp would get to visit with Tritt, simply because of how busy Tritt can be when doing shows. Tritt's on the road about 135 days of the year, Patterson said. Tritt and Hayes will play together again tonight at the Chase County Fair in Imperial, Neb.
When they do, Justine Ferrari, 19, of Virginia, and Heather Altenhof, 22, of Wyoming, will be there. They also saw Hayes perform Wednesday night in Iowa and Thursday in Aberdeen.
The women, who got to be friends because they both followed the young star on Twitter, are catching four shows during their time together this week. And they insist it's Hayes' music, not his good looks, that they appreciate.
"He just puts on an awesome show. He's got great energy," Altenhof said.
Ferrari said Hayes, who is 20, writes catchy songs that are easy to relate to since he's roughly the same age. And his concerts offer some variety.
"He changes it in little ways every time, so it's never the same," Ferrari said.
The women said they have met Hayes a couple of times before. He used to greet fans after his concerts, though that was before he started his assent up the country charts, they said.
By 6:30 Thursday evening, considerable lines extended from all three gates leading into the grandstand. Altenhof and Ferrari were at the front of the east entrance and had been waiting in line since about 3 p.m.
When Hayes took the stage for his opener, much of the audience roared in approval, a good sign since grandstand concert crowds can sometimes be sedate until the sun goes down. His flattering comments helped prime the crowd and were greeted with squeals of approval from female fans.
By the time he sang his current hit, "Wanted," the multi-instrumentalist from Louisiana had safely secured that fan base.
Tritt wooed the crowd by singing a series of familiar songs, exactly what's expected of a man who's had more than a dozen Top 10 hits.
He opened "Put Some Drive In Your Country" and promised his swelling audience all of their favorites as well as some unreleased material. He delivered both.
At the base of the grandstand, Chantal Gortmaker and Craig Major, both of Aberdeen, enjoyed both shows. Having won box seats from Pheasant Country 103.7, the engaged couple sat and relaxed above the crowded standing-room area from which they generally watch fair concerts. Major often bobbed his head and sang along with Tritt.
Even without the free tickets, the fair veterans said they would have been at the show, which featured a hot newcomer, an established star, a gorgeous sunset and wonderful weather.
If the concerts wind up being shabby, people-watching is worth the price of admission, Gortmaker said.
The opening-night crowd seemed larger than normal, and fair officials said they expect the size of concert crowds to get progressively larger. The goal each year is to have record concert attendance, said Sea Atwood, a fair board member. Capacity is about 6,000, he said. Ticket sales this year have been good, he said.
Two video screens, new to the stage this year, were nice additions, allowing even folks in the back to see the faces of the singers. Tritt, with his shoulder-length brown hair and beard, looked the same as he did at the prime of his career, though his voice has yielded a bit though the years — not that his fans seemed to mind.
Jarrod Niemann and David Nail perform tonight starting at 8 p.m. Dierks Bentley and Dustin Evans and Goodtimes take the stage Saturday.