SILVIS – Looking at a hillside packed with people Sunday while performing near the 18th green at TPC Deere Run, country music star Blake Shelton shared a secret with the John Deere Classic crowd.
“This is the strangest setup of all the shows we’ve ever done,” the Grammy Award winner confessed. “I’m never going to forget this.”
Ditto for the golf fans and music lovers alike raving about the weekend debut of the John Deere Classic’s “Concerts on the Course” series.
The shows followed the completion of play in the final two rounds at the 52nd annual PGA Tour stop.
The day before Mr. Shelton’s appearance, fellow country music star Darius Rucker performed on Saturday.
“This is packed. There’s SO many people,” said East Moline’s Mary Beth Stopoulos, a regular attendee of the JDC with her husband and friends.
“This is probably the busiest I’ve ever seen it in all my years here,” added Moline’s Michelle Johnson, who has made the golf tournament an annual family outing for the past 14 years.
In fact, the action under the concession tent at the 18th hole was nearly as exciting as the show on the stage, joked Tyler Whitten, a 15-year-old concessions volunteer whose efforts benefited Rock Island High School band fundraiser.
“I was thinking it was going to be a big crowd, but it was even bigger than I imagined,” said Mr. Whitten, one of the dozens of volunteers serving food and drinks to a steady stream of visitors. “We were so busy, it had to be like clockwork. We were on the run the whole time.”
Ms. Stopoulos and her friend Gina Massa remembered years ago the JDC used to have a “19th hole” post-round concert at the tournament’s former host, Oakwood Country Club.
“They’d have bands but nothing like this,” Ms. Massa recalled.
“Those were local bands,” added Ms. Stopoulos. “And it was a good time; don’t get me wrong. But this is just a huge draw. What a great idea. They certainly got some huge names.”
On Sunday, Mr. Shelton drew many newcomers to the JDC such as Darrin and Teresa Kirkland, who made a two and a half hour-trip from their home in Ottumwa, Iowa.
“I’m a John Deere employee and I got some tickets to come out and enjoy the day,” Mr. Kirkland said with a lawn chair under his arm to offer a seat for the show.
“We’ve never been up here before and I thought it would be a good opportunity to come experience it and stick around a little later for Blake. And it was neat walking around, looking at all the equipment on the course.
“I am not a golf fan – but I’ve seen all the write-ups about this (event) – and we did watch a little (golf) after we arrived in the afternoon. But we came to see Blake Shelton. As soon as we heard he was coming, we circled the calendar. This is the highlight – that got us here.”
However, plenty of final-round JDC regulars also were thrilled by having more than the golf tournament to cheer about.
“Sunday is my regular day here, so Blake Shelton is a bonus. He’s the cherry on top of a perfect Sunday,” said Davenport resident and Chicago native Linda Fessel, who was joined by her husband, sons and their significant others at the 16th hole, her usual JDC perch, prior to moving to the clubhouse area for the show.
“We enjoyed some amazing golf, some beautiful weather, some good conversation and now we’re looking forward to some awesome music.”
The John Deere Classic weekend rave reviews were pretty universal.
“Blake was bigger than Darius. I was here (Saturday) and it was big, but it wasn’t this big,” said Brad Johnson, a 65-year-old Moliner and longtime JDC volunteer for Sunday’s cleanup crew from the Moline Booster Club.
“I had VIP seating, so it was extra special for me. I was right there. But both shows were really good.”
His sister-in-law Ms. Johnson agreed.
“I like how they both talked to the crowd,” she said noting that Mr. Rucker also performed some songs from the 1990’s – including his Hootie and the Blowfish hits along with covers from TLC and Bell Biv DeVoe.
“I embarrassed my kids (Lucas, 16; and Maya, 14) because I was dancing to ‘Poison’ (the Bell Biv DeVoe hit).”
Mr. Whitten said when he volunteered for final-round duty, Mr. Shelton’s performance had yet to be announced. Grounds passes to the JDC included admission to the concerts. Sunday’s tickets were sold out more than a week before the show.
“So, this was a nice surprise,” Mr. Whitten said. “I really like Blake Shelton, and this was a really good show.
“This was a great experience and I’ll definitely come back to do this again. You think you’re going to see golf, but then you get Blake Shelton on stage right next to you, which is awesome.
“I’ll definitely be talking about this for a long time. If I see any young band members, I’ll be sure to have them tell their friends they should be out here.”
Others said this JDC weekend will be something they share with future generations of their family.
“This is as big as the Cubs winning the World Series,” Mr. Johnson said.
“I thought it was great for the community,” agreed Ms. Johnson. “At (Saturday’s) show, they did a whole crowd wave around the whole bowl. It was really cool. It just kind of brought everybody together and I heard several people say that we really needed this.”
Golf fans and concertgoers also were unified in hoping the new feature will continue next year at the JDC.
“Luke Bryan,” Lucas Johnson said to offer a suggested follow up act.
“Willie Nelson would be cool,” added his uncle, Brad Johnson.
“I say Morgan Wallen,” chipped in Maya Johnson.
“All of those sound good to me,” laughed Lucas’ and Maya’s mom, Michelle Johnson. “Four days of shows would be even better – and fireworks for the 4th (of July first round) next year would be great, too.”