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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

SANDRA NEWSOME OF Pearl River got a double surprise Friday night. Boyfriend Lee Burakowski took her down front and center as singer Brad Paisley sang his “Wrapped Around” to propose. She said yes, and Paisley leaned over to give the two his congratulations. Paisley’s lyrics were calling for it – “I think it’s time I put a ring on the finger I’m wrapped around!” he sang.

Bethel Woods' Stormy Night Worth The Wet Wait

By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL — July 31, 2007 — What’s a little rain when you’re going to Woodstock?
Not enough to stop more than 9,000 fans from lining up in the parking lot, begging to get in Friday night.
The performing arts center shut the gates late Friday afternoon as a dangerous thunder and lightning storm swept through just hours before Brad Paisley was set to light up the night.
Guests already on the grounds were sent back to the parking lot, and the thousands of fans pouring into Bethel were told to sit tight and listen to country station Thunder 102 for updates.
But hundreds braved the stinging rain and wind that flipped make-shift lean-tos in the lot, some to set up a tailgating party and others to stand, umbrellas in hand, at the entrance.
And while sideways lighting lit up the sky, Bethel Woods officials promised country was coming – but safety came first.
When the gates finally opened almost a half hour after the concert was originally scheduled to begin, thousands streamed through to claim their seats – both on the lawn in the pouring rain and under cover of the pavilion.
Headliner Paisley said the performers had debated whether they’d have anyone to sing to.
“I told ’em, ‘Hell yeah, it’s Woodstock, they won’t leave because of rain! It takes the police to shut this thing down,’” he said to raucous cheers.
This was Paisley’s second appearance at Bethel Woods, and fans proved why he claimed the distinction as the “hands-down local favorite” last year.
Before Friday, ticket sales were already up 135 percent from last year’s Paisley show, said Bethel Woods Marketing Director Matt McNeil even as he watched folks lining up at the box office to buy more.
American Idol’s Southern sweetheart Kellie Pickler kicked off the show, strutting down the extended stage in a low-cut red top and stilettos.
The least experienced of the four-artist slate, Pickler nonetheless had the country fans dancing in the aisles, cowboy hats bopping and boots clacking as she sang an ode to her own idol, Dolly Parton.
Breaking down into tears as she collected a paper pickle, flowers and presents from a zealous fan, Pickler gave a soulful rendition of her latest hit, “I Wonder,” followed by the sassy signature tune “Red High Heels.”
Then as fast as she hit the stage, she was gone, making way for a short intermission and Taylor Swift.
The 17-year-old showed her staying power in country music, running through her already well-known “Teardrops on my Guitar” and “Tim McGraw,” and drawing comparisons to McGraw’s wife Faith Hill but with a lot more moxie.
Break her heart or be mean to her, and “I will write a song about you!” she warned.
Turns out the “Drew” of “Teardrops” was one of the dozens who didn’t know she was sitting in high school writing about a year ago, Swift told Bethel fans.
They showed her nothing but love, hoisting hundreds of cell phones above their heads to turn the lawn into a sea of muted blue light in a 21st century version of the cigarette lighter tribute.
She too left the stage after a short set, a sign perhaps that the Bonfires and Amplifiers Tour has been running long enough to become a well-oiled machine, but working out perfectly for the late-running Bethel show.
Next up was Jack Ingram, a late bloomer in the country world.
Ingram has been making the rounds for more than a decade, but is was number one hit “Wherever You Are” which he played to screaming fans in Bethel that finally got him big-time attention.
Ingram had the women in the audience on their feet for his poppy “Love You,” the men for his cover of Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel.”
After another short intermission and just under two hours since Pickler took the stage, it was time for Paisley to come bursting out of a mock set of amplifiers on a set markedly like the one in the music video for his hit “Online.”
“I’m going to play some country music for all you hippies,” Paisley called.
And he did.
In a set that lasted until nearly midnight, the hometown favorite gave Sullivan County fans a taste of his hits from the early days of his career and a fair share of his latest chart toppers.
While fans waved “official tick checker” and “check me for ticks” signs, Paisley offered up his summertime in Sullivan County-appropriate “Ticks” and pranced around the stage, throwing guitar picks to his fans and even the hat off his head to one girl with a “Brad, can I please have your cowboy hat” sign.
His 2001 hit “Wrapped Around” brought Lee Burakowski down to the front of the stage, dragging girlfriend Sandra Newsome behind him.
As Paisley sang, Burakowski whipped open a ring box and asked Newsome to marry him.
She said yes.
Denise and Ken Kreidell had a front-row seat to the proposal.
They first won lawn tickets then a seat upgrade and limo ride from Thunder 102.
Already planning to make their first visit to Bethel Woods for Saturday night’s Doo Wop show, the Yulan couple said they were in for a big weekend.
Two of the few people allowed to stay inside the gates (their limo driver had already left), the Kreidells weren’t about to let a little rain get them down.
“It’s Woodstock, a little rain never hurt anyone!” Ken said with a laugh. Almost 40 years ago, Ken was a teenager summering in Smallwood.
His dad wouldn’t let him go to the concert up the road.
But Friday’s show was fantastic, the Kreidells said, and their rain-free look at the grounds the next day proved the Gerry Foundation has done a bang-up job of preserving the natural environment in Bethel.
Country fans more by default – they follow Thunder 102 for its community outreach, not its format – Denise said they were still impressed with the talent.
“Who would have thought Brad Paisley would have been in Bethel?” she said. “You can see the county is booming again – it’s nice!”
Bill and Paula Clark of White Sulphur Springs couldn’t agree more.
They brought their youngest child, Erica, to see Ashlee Simpson last year then came back for Brad Paisley.
This year they had all three kids in tow for Bonfires and Amplifiers.
Paisley put on a good show last year, Bill said, and the facility is “just phenomenal.”
They’ll be back again – without the kids – for Trace Adkins in August.
And if the first country act of the season is any indication, so will thousands of others.

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