By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Before playing in front of a capacity crowd of 9,428 fans inside the BancorpSouth Arena, artists on the Christian music tour Winter Jam played quick, intimate sets outside at a stage set up for the thousands who couldn’t get in the building.
After the show was deemed a sell-out, about 3,000 fans were turned away – something the arena has never done, said Kevan Kirkpatrick, director of marketing. So Winter Jam officials set up the stage outside, something they’ve rarely, if ever, done before to show their appreciation. Artists like For King and Country, Peter Furler, Kari Jobe and Dara MacLean played a few songs on the make-shift stage, complete with lights and a mirror ball, on the east side of the arena.
It was the perfect set-up for Kellee Cochran, 17, her mom, Alicia, Payton Ayres, 18, and her mom, Shawn, who all drove over from Muscle Shoals. The quartet was more than satisfied with the two-hour concert outside.
“This was amazing,” Shawn said.
“I’d have never had been this close to Kari Jobe on the inside,” her daughter said.
Kellee Cochran saw the good in not being able to see the main event: “Maybe four people who weren’t saved got our spots.”
The fans outside also were able to meet some of the stars.
“Thank you for being good sports. We’d love to say g’day to all of you,” said Joel Smallbone of the Australian duo For King and Country, before having a short meet-and-greet with fans.
Inside, fans enjoyed a huge rock ‘n’ roll show, full of flashing lights, big screens, smoke and pyro.
For the arena’s director of operations, Craig Russell, Winter Jam rounds out an incredibly busy two weeks. He and his crew of 30 had to change the building over from one event to the next, sometimes in just a matter of hours.
“We had Monster Jam, Senior Beta convention, Riverdance, Jason Aldean and Winter Jam,” he said. “I’ve been here 18 years, and this is the hardest time we’ve ever had. Last night we had 8,900 people here, beer everywhere, and this morning you couldn’t even tell we’d had a concert.”
His work never ends: he begins preparing today for the Mississippi Hound Dogs indoor football team, which starts its season Saturday at the arena.