When asked what concert goers can expect from Thursday night’s two sold-out shows at the California Mid-State Fair, country superstar Garth Brooks had one word: “Chaos.”
As thousands of fans fell upon the Paso Robles Event center before the show, chaos did seem to be the word of the day.
More than two hours before the show, eager fans began lining up near the agriculture pavilion, the show’s alternate entrance, even amid sweltering temperatures in the high 90s. An hour before the show, that line wrapped from the back of the event center to the Chumash Grandstand Arena itself.
Debbie Soto of Cambria, who was waiting in line shortly before the show at 7:30 p.m., described all the hype surrounding Brooks’ concerts as “crazy.”
“It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “It’s like we are going away from the grandstand instead of going toward it.”
Soto said she was lucky enough to get tickets to the first show when they initially went on sale.
“This is the first chance we’ve had to see him and we are excited,” she said. “We love country western music.”
It was Brooks’ first time performing at the Mid-State Fair, though wife Trisha Yearwood, who jointly performed Thursday night, has played at the fair three times before — headlining in 1995 and 1997 and opening for Don Henley in 2002.
Both said they were excited to return to a fair format after spending most of their time performing in traditional concert arenas in recent years.
“It’s almost like with an arena you don’t ever know what you are walking out to,” Yearwood said. “With a fair, you have a good idea of what’s out there, and everybody’s had fun all day. Maybe they are hot. Maybe they are tired. Maybe they’ve had too much funnel cake, whatever, but they are there and they are ready and excited. There’s an energy that’s already out there before you get to bring your energy and hopefully be a part of that.”
Brooks had a simpler explanation.
“A fair is probably the best way to see us because it’s just going to be fun,” he said.
The duo of concerts shattered the Mid-State Fair’s previous ticket sale records in June, when both performances sold out in less than 30 seconds. Though fair officials later said most of the tickets to the first show were sold locally, some questioned the speed at which the tickets were snapped up, claiming automated bots and second-hand sellers had played a part.
“There was a lot of frustration here with the tickets, so you want the people who got in here to hopefully forget about that, and come in and have fun,” Brooks said. “I wish there was some way we could take care of the people that couldn’t get tickets because they were the ones on the other side of the frustration.”
Despite the frustration, Brooks said he hoped people would bring their “A game” Thursday.
“The most favorite thing you can do for this artist is bring your voice,” he said. “Just let it out, let it rip.”