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13,000 turn out for Fun Fest

August 17, 1998

Sherrie AustinBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




ROUZERVILLE, Pa. - She sounds country when she sings, but Sherrie Austin revealed a different accent when she addressed a sea of lawn chairs in front of the stage at Red Run Park.

"I'm from the deep, deep south ... the land down under," Austin told of a crowd estimated at more than 13,000 Sunday afternoon at the WAYZ Summer Fun Fest. The petite brunette was one of a half dozen acts that entertained the country music fans.

--cont. from news--

"I grew up with Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline," she said, explaining in part how a woman from Australia became a country music recording artist. At one time she had also played a character on the sitcom "The Facts of Life," according to Mendy Obitts, the promotional director for VerStandig Broadcasting.

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"This is the 18th year and our third location. We had it at Pen Mar Park for a couple of years, but we outgrew that," General Manager Marge Martin said of the Fun Fest. Back then, she said the staff cooked the hot dogs and served up the sodas.

Obitts said there were about 50 craft and food vendors this year. About 25 staff members from the station helped run the show. Dozens of other fire police, Washington Township Police and others helping to manage what appeared to be a well-mannered crowd that included many families with children.

Fun Fest"We got here about a quarter of five and they opened the gates at 7 a.m.," said Renee Stull, 19, of Waynesboro. She and her friend Kara Dingle, 17, of Cascade, Md., were among a throng of people that gathered outside the park early to ensure they had their lawn chairs close to the front of the stage.

"We were down at Fan Fair in June and saw a lot of these people," Stull said of an event in Nashville where fans get to meet with their favorite country stars. She said this was the first time she had actually seen Lonestar and the other acts perform.

At a pavilion near the stage a couple of hundred fans lined up to get pictures, cowboy hats and other items autographed by singer Keith Harling. He obliged more than a few fans with hugs so friends or family members could snap a photo.

Jim Shoop of Steelton, Pa., was showing off a T-shirt adorned with scores of autographs. "A couple of hundred at least," he said when asked how many country music singers and acts had signed the shirt.

Shoop said he's gotten almost all the signatures in Pennsylvania where "you probably have more country music fans than any state in the union."

"You know why country music fans are so dedicated? Because of this," Darline Francis of Shenandoah County, Va., said as she and a friend waited in line for Harling's autograph.

Francis said she even bakes cookies for some of the artists she has gotten to know well.

She's also gotten to know Shoop, whom she met at a concert last month. They expect to bump into each other again at a concert in Manasass, Va., later this week.

Francis said country acts could lose their fan base if they failed to maintain their intimacy with fans.

"Do you ever hear anybody bragging about how nice rock artists are?" Shoop asked.

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