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Inaugural Veterans Country Jam comes to Civic Center

By Staff | Oct 31, 2014

They didn’t quite pack the house, and one of the acts had to cancel at the last minute, but there was still plenty for fans to get excited about this past weekend at the first of what organizers hope will be many Veterans Country James nationwide.

About 2,000 fans came to the Lee Civic Center on Saturday, to pay tribute to those who have served in the military.

Their payoff? Lee Greenwood ending the four-hour concert with a show-stopping anthem.

The night started with Gov. Rick Scott saying a few words to the vets in the crowd before the LCEC Killa Watts took the stage to play a few country favorites.

One of the acts who didn’t come was Cape Coral-based Grayson Rogers, who had to cancel because of throat troubles. The first two acts, though, performed a little longer than they ordinarily would.

When Michael Wright took the stage and took a gander at the crowd, he didn’t seem to mind. They cheered and did some dancing, and this was a first baby step for what he hopes will be something bigger nationwide.

“It’s a good crowd. It’s always hard the first year, but we’re going to have a lot of fun with the crowd that’s here,” Wright said. “We appreciate the support for the veterans and that’s what it’s all about.”

From there, it was Lee Greenwood’s turn, as he sang his classic hits, country standards such as “Rocky Top,” took to his saxophone for a rendition of “Tequila,” and teased his show stopper before singing the “McDonald’s and You” jingle he composed in the early 80s, to great laughs.

When he finally sang “God Bless the USA” to end the show, it was met with cheers, tears, bulbs flashing and singing along. It was the perfect way to end the evening, since it was pretty much what they came to see.

Joy Baker, of Cape Coral, who went onstage to do the song in sign language, said it was a thrill of a lifetime.

“I’ve been singing the song for the past year for the Calendar Girls, And it was phenomenal to stand there next to him and sign it,” Baker said. “I had five brothers who were all in the service. My dad was in the Navy, so I am proud to be an American.”

“I thought it was wonderful. He’s so patriotic, it made you feel good about the troops and the veterans. It’s all about them.” said Linda Floyd of Cape Coral. “It makes us proud to be America, like the song says. I thought all the bands were great. God Bless the USA.”

What was supposed to be a one-shot deal has turned into something that will tour the nation, with about 100 shows planned for the next year.

George Tice, president of Veterans Music Jam, said things went well for the first show, all things considered.

“It’s hard when you have other events happening in Lee County, but it was good turnout. It was fine,” Tice said. “Again, it’s all about honoring our veterans in Lee County.”