Toby Keith raises his cup as he performs during the Bash On The Bay country music festival at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.
PUT-IN-BAY — Country star Toby Keith slowly took a sip from his red solo cup and stared out into the sea of people at the Put-in-Bay airport. He had just finished his set opener “Haven’t Had A Drink All Day,” as his final guitar chord rang and lingered in the background.
“Let’s party!” he told the crowd of more than 12,000 people.
Thousands of people from surrounding states spent Thursday at Put-in-Bay’s first-ever Bash On The Bay country music festival, featuring the country star as the headliner.
Country fan Colleen Null spent the night before at her seasonal residence in Port Clinton with her family. She drove down to Ohio from Michigan just to see country star Toby Keith perform at the island’s first country music festival.
“We love the Tigers and Toby, the ‘Two T’s.’ We’re very excited about this,” she said.
Ms. Null said she’s never seen the island host as big of a name as Toby Keith in the more than 30 years she’s owned her seasonal home.
“We like to do the first of anything. If it would’ve been anyone else?” she said as she looked at her family members. “Would we have came? Maybe,” she laughingly said as she stood in line before gates opened at 3 p.m.
The country music festival also featured special guests LOCASH, Waterloo Revival, Cory Farley Band, and Brent Lowry And The Drifters. Each band performed for about an hour, which allowed the “Red Solo Cup” star to take the stage at 8:15 p.m. Guests continued to flood in leading up to Keith’s first song.
Brent Lowry And The Drifters’ bassist Steve Geroski, whose band was the first to play for the day, said the band’s 32-foot motor home and 12-foot trailer full of equipment had a pretty easy ferry ride to the island.
“This is by far the biggest show that we’ve played,” he said, adding the band has performed with other acts like Brothers Osborne and Rodney Atkins in the past.
Fans enter during the Bash On The Bay country music festival at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, on Thursday. Toby Keith headlines the event.
About 7,000 guests were lucky enough to book a hotel room on the island. About 5,000 others started their day by riding an 18-minute ferry ride by Miller Boat Line or Jet Express to Put-in-Bay.
The voyage to the Put-in-Bay Airport continued as fans walked, or rode taxis, buses, or rented golf carts about a quarter of a mile down the street from the Miller Boat Line dock.
Kevin Ewers, 59, of New Holland, Ohio, made it easy for himself. He and his wife spent the night before the show in his recreational vehicle parked in Port Clinton. They took the ferry to the island. It was both the couple’s first time at a Toby Keith concert, and first music festival on an island.
“Whenever something unique like this [happens] it’s something to look forward to and be a part of,” Mr. Ewers said.
Fans on the airport grounds wore cowboy hats and boots as they raced to set up lawn chairs on the grass near the stage.
About 200 security guards flooded the entire airport. More patrolling the surrounding water. Aside from Keith’s multiple semis and tour buses, countless food trucks and equipment trucks were squeezed into the venue.
That’s not to mention the various beer tents on scene.
Patrick Myers of the Put-in-Bay Township Port Authority said, for a country music festival in the works for four years, seeing the line increase before gates opened at 3 p.m. meant a job well done.
“The day is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “Mobilization is everything out here and it’s going quite nice.”
Todd and Debbie Hansen of Toledo were also part of the bunch able to secure a hotel in Port Clinton the night before.
Brent Lowry with Brent Lowry and The Drifters sings during the Bash On The Bay country music festival at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, on Thursday. Toby Keith headlines the event.
“It’s interesting,” Mrs. Hansen, 54, said. “It’s fun and is exciting to see how it’s all [put together].”
Eric Engel, chairman of the Put-in-Bay Township Port Authority, said the concert is providing about $50,000 in revenue for the airport.
“Everybody’s having a good time,” he said. “It’s a new venue we’ve never done before. This is the largest event we’ve ever had on the island in one spot.”
When asked if Bash On The Bay would continue next year, he said it’s up to the taxpayers on the island.
“If they like this event and it turns out positive that’s how we’ll follow through,” he said. “It’s not my airport, it’s their airport.”
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.