The fair's opening concert was a blend of patriotic and Christian music.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Lee Greenwood and Sandi Patty brought more than 3,000 people to their feet in an extraordinary display of patriotic zeal at the Canfield Fair.
With "Pride in America" as their theme and that of the fair, the Grammy Award winning singers gave a rousing grandstand performance Wednesday evening, during which an enthusiastic audience clapped, sang along, waved flags and gave both performers standing ovations.
The two-hour program opened with a stirring tribute to local veterans and members of all branches of military service and to police and firefighters from departments throughout Mahoning County, many of them represented at the ceremony.
With the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks less than two weeks away, the audience applauded as local veterans marched together toward the stage for the posting of the colors by the Austintown Fire Department color guard just before Patty sang the national anthem to open the program.
In one of the most moving parts of the observance, bagpipers from the local group, Celtic Flame, played "Amazing Grace" as the color guard retired the colors and a C-130 transport plane from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station flew low over the ceremony, dipping a wing as a salute.
Many in the audience wore red, white and blue attire or Lee Greenwood "God Bless the USA" souvenir shirts during the program, which was well-synchronized and fast-moving, but maintained the dignity befitting such an observance.
"I like country and western music, and I like what Lee Greenwood has done with his song, 'God Bless the USA.' I'm glad to see that song get revived," said Rodney Bowyer of Boardman. Bowyer is a Vietnam War Navy Seabee veteran, a Purple Heart recipient and a retired Youngstown police officer. He wore a red, white and blue, Grand Old Opry 70th anniversary souvenir cap and a similarly colored Smoky Mountain, Tenn., Nascar Cafe shirt.
"We went to Lee Greenwood's restaurant [in Tennessee] and he wasn't there, so now we have to come here to see him," said his wife, Mary Beth, who wore the same colors.
"I like the way he performs," said Edie Wright of Austintown, who heard Lee Greenwood in a Pittsburgh-area concert a few weeks ago and has been one of his fans for many years.
"He's energetic," her husband, Rich, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, said of Greenwood.
Patty has a "beautiful voice," said Peggy Hanlon of New Waterford, who heard Patty perform at the Richfield Coliseum and about 10 years ago at the Canfield Fair. Hanlon is a member, choir member and deacon at Mount Olivet United Church of Christ in North Lima. "I'm just glad that they brought gospel back for a change," she said of the fair board.
With red, white and blue spotlights shining on the stage, performers and the audience enjoyed cool, breezy and comfortable weather under cloudy, but rain-free skies for the fair's opening day concert.
Taking the stage
As soon as the tribute to local veterans and military and safety forces personnel concluded, Patty, an acclaimed contemporary performer of Christian music, emerged, singing a medley of some of her more recognizable religious songs.
With her singing characterized by her pure, angelic voice and signature high notes and accompanied only by a pianist, she shook hands with audience members walking in front of the stage at the beginning of her performance and repeatedly invited the crowd to join her in song.
She sang a song titled, "Mighty is the Name of the Lord," which is featured on her new album to be released at the beginning of next year. She received standing ovations for her singing of the hymn "How Great Thou Art" and her concluding song, "God Bless America."
Accompanied by six backup musicians, Greenwood opened with a musical pledge of allegiance and several songs from his new album, "Stronger than Time," which also will be released at the beginning of next year.
Among the selections he sang from that album were "Cornfield Cadillac," which he dubbed "Canfield Cadillac" for this performance, and "I Will Not Go Quietly."
He also sang "Great Defenders," a song recognizing all branches of military service, which he sings at USO shows, and "Thanks to a Hero," which recognizes civilian heroes. He also sang "IOU" -- one of his early hits that won him a Grammy.
A songwriter, vocalist and instrumental musician who plays 10 instruments, Greenwood not only sang but played the piano and saxophone during the concert.
Greenwood spotlighted some of the musicians in his band, including Eric Horner, a guitar player who sang "We Will Stand" -- a song that honors the heroes of Sept. 11 and whose proceeds go to families of the Sept. 11 victims.
In their only joint appearance on stage, Patty joined Greenwood in singing a song titled "Statue of Liberty."
The audience stood as Greenwood ended the concert with his most famous song, "God Bless the USA,'' which everyone in the audience had come to hear.
"It was a great program. It was great to see this many people stand up and shout that they were proud to be Americans," said Clarence Smith, Mahoning County GOP chairman, who attended the concert.
"I thought it was great -- real energetic -- a great thing for Canfield and the Canfield Fair," Charles Tieche, Canfield city manager, said after the concert.