July 05--PALMETTO -- Country music singer Scotty McCreery bounded on the stage shortly after 7 p.m. Friday as the star of Palmetto'sFourth of July Celebration.
When the concert was over 90 minutes later, there were glorious fireworks that blasted over the Green Bridge. but the 'tweens and teens never saw them.
They were still coming back to consciousness after screaming over the man who won the 10th season of American Idol in 2011.
Before a crowd of 10,000, McCreery broke into "Now," and its opening lines, "Let's crank it up loud. Let's turn the place out. Let's throw down. Ain't no maybe. Gettin' crazy."
Girls, age 9 to 19, seem to simply adore everything about McCreery, from his deep voice and his handsome face down to the shape of the large metal cross he wears around his neck and the fact that he voices his Christian ideals.
Fans came from all over the region to see and hear McCreery sing "I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble with Girls."
Meredith Burris, 17, and her best friend, Kiersten Collier, drove together from Polk County in Meredith's bright green Ford Fiesta, arriving in Palmetto at 11 a.m. for the 7 p.m. concert so they could secure front-row seats.
"I met him at the Strawberry Festival in Tampa," Meredith said of McCreery, whom she has now seen in concert four times. "When I met him, I cried."
Meredith purchased the first two Palmetto Fourth of July tickets sold online in June, for she and Kiersten.
"My favorite song is 'Feelin' It,' " Meredith said. "If Scotty asked me to marry him, I would say yes immediately."
Kiersten, however, also likes singer Luke Bryan.
"You've heard of sister wives," Kiersten said. "Luke and Scotty would have to be brother husbands."
While Meredith and Kiersten may be McCreery's biggest Polk County fans, perhaps his biggest Manatee County fan couldn't attend the concert because she was ill.
Abby Williams, 15, had been planning for her mom, Kristi, and her sisters, Reagan, 11, and Riley, 10, to go with her to the concert but, as it turned out, they all went and Abby had to stay home.
"She has all of Scotty's CDs," Kristi Williams said of Abby.
Abby even missed her friend from First Baptist Church of Palmetto, Mackenzie Ridenour, 19, doing an imitation of McCreery singing "The Trouble With Girls."
Megan Prandine, 16, of Bradenton and Mackenzie's brother, Landon Ridenour, 17, were also McCreery fans at the concert.
"He's a good Godly man and he's handsome," Mackenzie said of McCreery. "And I'm single."
Kristi Williams applauded McCreery for coming to Palmetto.
"I think his willingness to come to a smaller town like Palmetto says a lot about him," she said.
A Young Marine also said she is a McCreery fan.
Miliya Monteleone, 14, a student at Palmetto High School, was in her full Marine Corps League DeSoto Detachment 588 uniform Friday night and stood at attention during the national anthem.
But afterward, she whispered that she, too, is a McCreery fan.
McCreery's top Sarasota fans were also present, including Caylin Braun, 13; Julia Braun, 14, who is Caylin's cousin; and Marissa Niebrugge, 15. They were driven to the concert by Grandma Lera Castleman of Sarasota, who also brought Kelsey Castleman, 14, of Cincinnati.
The girls were asked what they would ask McCreery if they could talk to him.
"I would say, 'You are perfect,' " Caylin said.
Said Julia, "I would cry."
Fireworks draw a crowd of 10,000 to Riverwalk
Last year, Nathan and Tammy Boyer of Life Covenant Church handed out free water to those who gathered on Bradenton's Riverwalk to watch the fireworks shot off from right across the Manatee River in Palmetto.
"There were probably 3,000 people last year in Riverwalk," Nathan Boyer said. "But this year we were surprised. We reached 3,000 two hours before the fireworks."
The Boyers estimated a "Bradenton side" crowd for the fireworks this year of 10,000.
Twenty to 30 church volunteers, inspired by their pastor, The Rev. Dale Eason, gave out more than a thousand bottles of cold water on a humid night when cold water was needed.
Bradenton'sRhonda Ayers, who walks at the Riverwalk, thought it would be a terrific place to watch the fireworks. She set up her chair with a clear view across the river.
She brought her husband, David; her son, Wade Ayers; Wade's wife, Melissa; and her grandson, Samson, 1.
"I enjoy walking on Riverwalk tremendously, so I thought why not come for the fireworks," she said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@ RichardDymond.
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