New digs, day and price: The annual Red, White and Boom country music festival and fireworks in Lexington could have been a bust with such a lineup of changes.
But people who attended Saturday voiced more appreciation than disappointment with the revamped day of concerts, dancing, food and activities at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, normally home of the Lexington Legends.
Boom was moved this year from July 4 (Monday) to July 2 (Saturday) and from a parking lot outside Rupp Arena to the ballpark.
Rather than free entry, teens and adults paid $5 admission.
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A top feature might have been the grass of the ballpark, where people could sit on blankets to watch performers.
"I love it," said Melinda Dickhaus of Berea, who has been to every Red, White and Boom since its inception. "This is much better than that blacktop."
Her husband, Paul; daughter, Sidney, 11; and son Sammy, 1; were also in attendance. Paul Dickhaus said the ballpark location was more accommodating.
Jackie Crowe of Lexington and her daughter, Heather, agreed sitting on the ballfield beat blacktop. But Crowe also liked that the event wasn't held on the Fourth this year.
"I like that it's a different day because you have something to do all weekend," Crowe said, adding that the event this year was "much more controlled."
Michael Jordan, director of operations for Clear Channel Radio of Lexington, the event's organizer, said people began spreading their blankets on the field as soon as the gates opened at 11 a.m. As of 8:30 p.m., he said there had been no production problems.
"It's kind of neat to see people bringing out patriotic blankets," he said.
Others opted for the stadium's seating, halfway blanketed by shade in mid-afternoon.
"They said last year in the parking lot was horrible," said Becky Winburn of Winchester. "I like the seat with the back."
Trevor Workman of Nicholasville came out for the second year in a row for the music, despite the venue change.
"There was more room at the other place," Workman said. He disliked the no re-entry policy.
"Last year you could do anything," he said.
Workman, his cousin Alex Workman and friend Nathan Tackett said they were excited for headliner Craig Morgan, who was scheduled to take the stage at 9 p.m. Workman arrived around 3 p.m. and planned to stick around for the fireworks show.
Other were unhappy with the $5 entrance fee.
"I don't like that you have to pay for it now," Heather Crowe said. "It used to be free."
Lexington Legends President and Chief Operating Officer Alan Stein said the fee was not much of a deterrent; 7,300 tickets were pre-sold. Children 3-12 had to have tickets for entry even though they were free.
A total of 10,000 to 12,000 people were expected to attend this year, Stein said, and "we're clearly going to hit our number." The figure is comparable to the roughly 10,000-plus fans who would pack into the event's previous locale.
As of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 10,000 had entered the ballpark since the event started, Stein said, and 7,500 were currently inside. People were still pouring in about 8:15 p.m.
"By the time Craig Morgan comes on at 9," Stein said, "this place is going to be packed."
He said one of the only complaints he heard was about the park getting crowded, but he said that the setting was also more controlled and ideal for families.
As of 8 p.m., Stein had heard of no arrests.
The ballpark is interested in hosting the event again next year, Stein said. But Jordan said it was too early to tell if Clear Channel would ask the ballpark to host again.