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4thFest concert in Coralville celebrates Independence Day with Oak Ridge Boys

Classic country group draws a crowd of about 6,000

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CORALVILLE — The Oak Ridge Boys may not be a household name, but they still drew one of the biggest crowds the Coralville 4thFest has ever seen.

Thousands gathered Sunday night during usually cool Fourth of July festivities to see a free concert in S.T. Morrison Park.

The Oak Ridge Boys, country gospel music quartet well known for their hits in the 1970s and 1980s, headlined the free concert.

The performance was a part of 4thFest, Coralville’s annual Fourth of July festival that took place over four days, culminating with Sunday night’s concert.

Coralville officials and 4thFest Committee members said they estimated that more than 6,000 people attended Sunday’s performance.

Terry Kaeding, special events organizer for the city of Coralville, said the planning committee had expected a larger-than-usual crowd after booking the popular Oak Ridge Boys, staples of the country-gospel scene since the 1960s.

The night began with about 3,500 concertgoers watching the opening act, the Sidewinders, a nine-member band from the Iowa Army National Guard stationed in Fairfax.

Following the Sidewinders’ final number, “Seven Nation Army,” the Oak Ridge Boys took the stage and opened with a song from 1984, “Everyday.”

The Oak Ridge Boys, best known for their 1981 hit “Elvira,” were in Coralville as part of a nationwide tour.

One woman in attendance had canceled her other Fourth of July plans when she heard her favorite band was performing in the region.

Jan Seibert, a 59-year-old self-described “groupie” of the Oak Ridge Boys, drove about two hours from her hometown of Quincy, Ill., to see the concert. She planted herself in the front of the rows of bag chairs and clusters of blankets, to the left side of the stage, which had a mosh pit in front.

“If I’m not in the front row, I’m not happy,” she said.

Seibert, who has been a fan of the band for about 16 years, said she’s seen the Oak Ridge Boys perform far more than 50 times. But, she said, each show is different.

“They’re awesome,” Seibert said. “The more I go, the more I love them.”

The opportunity to see a favorite band free was an opportunity too good to pass up for other fans as well.

“How could you refuse free?” asked Donna Vanvark, 53, of Pella.

Linda Barton, 73, of Lone Tree, decided to introduce the Oak Ridge Boys to the next generation. Her grandchildren, Rachael and Ryan Matthus, both 11, tagged along to the concert while visiting their grandmother from their hometown in South Carolina.

Rachael, who never had seen the country-pop quartet, said she was looking forward to the performance.

“I thought it would be fun,” she said. “Better than staying in the house anyhow.”

The event featured nine food vendors and five vendors of other types, said Lynn Snyder, 4thFest Committee co-chair. A carnival in the parking lot of the Coralville Community Aquatic Center next door also helped draw several families to the venue.

“I think it’s so awesome Coralville has such a family-friendly event,” Barton said. “I certainly would want to come and enjoy their hospitality.”

Kaeding said the goal of making the 4thFest concert a free, family-friendly event couldn’t be realized “if it wasn’t for all the sponsorship.”

Money for the concert, as well as other 4thFest events, comes through various sponsors, Snyder said.

Coralville’s annual Fourth of July festival isn’t done yet: Featured events today are a parade and fireworks show.

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