By Melody Vallieu
FORT LORAMIE — Country Concert in the Hills 2016 ended its reign over the weekend with a star-studded lineup Saturday night.
Tens of thousands of people flocked as close to center stage as possible Saturday evening as the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Thomas Rhett and headliner Eric Church took to the stage.
Early in the day, artists such as Pilgrim, Haley Georgia, The Steeldrivers, Brothers Osborne, Cassadee Pope and A Thousand Horses had performed for the throngs of fans.
Leesha Bolton of Sidney, a graduate of Fairlawn High School who now lives in Columbus, said she comes back every year to celebrate summer.
“I grew up listening to country music and my mom brought us to Country Concert for the first time when I was 15,” Bolton said. “I come back every year for good music and to hang out with family and friends.”
Others said they come for much the same reason.
Jake Stevens, a Piqua High School graduate now residing in Cincinnati, brought his fiancee Katy Hyder, formerly of Cleveland, now also of Cincinnati. The two were celebrating not only her birthday, but the third anniversary of meeting each other.
Hyder said the two met for the first time at Country Concert in 2013, and are now engaged to be married in 2017.
Stevens said he also comes back every year to spend the weekend with family and friends, many of them from high school.
“It’s what makes America great,” said the former EOD specialist for the U.S. Army. “Our freedom to have events such as this.”
Hyder, a Thomas Rhett fan, along with Stevens, had front stage passes for Rhett and said he put on an amazing show.
Rhett sang such crowd favorites as “It Goes Like This” and “Die a Happy Man,” along with his newest party anthem, “Vacation.”
As night fell over the sea of country music fans, Eric Church took the stage to a roaring crowd of hyped-up music lovers.
The country crooner belted out “Carolina,” “Springsteen,” “Like a Wreckin’ Ball,” “Talladega,” “Record Year,” “Mr. Misunderstood” and more.
Out of the weekend’s lineup, Bolton couldn’t wait to see Eric Church — and he didn’t disappoint.
“He lit the place up,” Bolton said. “He was amazing, it was a great performance. He did exactly what I believed he would bring: energy, fun and amazing music.”
Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Vorhees said Friday’s concert was quiet, with just a few minor arrests throughout the day, and by late Saturday, he said the same was true.
“Things have been really calm,” Vorhees said.