SALEM, Va. – The Roanoke Valley hosted the largest crowd for an entertainment event since the pandemic began Friday when country music star Chase Rice played at the Salem Red Sox baseball stadium.
They scanned their tickets, grabbed a snack and found the perfect seats. After a year of shutdown, Abby Miller and her friend enjoyed feeling a bit normal again.
“Just for something to do on a Friday, I finished my first week of my internship so I figured I would celebrate the start of my summer,” Miller said.
The duo were part of about 2,200 people estimated at Salem Memorial Ballpark Friday night. It was arguably one of the largest crowds in the Roanoke Valley since the pandemic restrictions began.
Chase Rice played the center field stage more than a year after he was supposed to. Shortly before the original date, Rice played a crowded concert in Tennessee, posting a video to his Instagram from the stage showing packed fans with little masking in the heat of the pandemic. Rice took heavy criticism as the pandemic continued to worsen, and the Salem show was put on hold shortly after.
Wendy Delano is the director of facilities for the Salem Civic Center and was happy to see how far we’ve come since then.
“We’ve had people that have been waiting for two years to come out to this show, they hung on to their tickets and here they are finally,” Delano said.
COVID precautions were still in place. Unvaccinated attendees were asked to wear masks, ballpark staff wore theirs and social distancing was still in effect. Zip ties kept chairs closed in-between rows and pods were roped out on the field for people to sit in.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep everyone safe but allow them to have a good time,” Delano said.
The show was the first in the ballpark in about 12 years Delano said. She added the crowd was well behaved and there were no major issues.
It’s good news for Miller, who’s looking forward to a summer full of fun.
“I think that people are doing what they need to do to in order to make these events happen so I’m excited that they’re possible and hopefully this will be a good trial run for more events in the future,” Miller said.